For all of my talk about the three step process of building a business, there’s something to be said for the fact that it’s so freaking easy these days to start something – right now.
Recently I went to a conference here in Portland put on by Jason Glaspey called Tiny Startup Camp.
Start a tiny business by the end of the weekend.
There were speakers, and plenty of people there to help, but the entire concept was built around the idea that you don’t need funding, crazy tech skills, or 99% of the things that keep most people from starting a business.
All you need is an idea, a few bucks, and an afternoon to put the whole thing together.
That’s a powerful concept.
Why Build An Asset? What Does That Even Mean?
Over the past couple months I’ve talked a lot about how most people go about building businesses in the wrong way. They start at the end, before they have any clue what they’re doing.
Well now, I’m gonna hit you with some knowledge that will be completely contradictory to all that other stuff – so hear me out, while keeping all of that in the back of your mind.
Time and time again I hear excuses like these:
- “I don’t have a good idea”
- “I know I need to start, but it’s just so daunting”
- “I want to start something, but I don’t know how”
The list goes on, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Even my three step method of: building skills, freelancing, then building your own projects, will take some time. For some people without tangible steps and guidelines it can be really difficult to feel like you’re making progress – and thus can be difficult to build confidence in your ability to start something on your own.
So how about we change that?
This post is going to go in depth and teach you everything you need to know in order to build an online asset, or the beginnings of a tiny startup in one afternoon.
What’s an asset exactly?
By the time you’re done with this, you’ll have a site that’s up, allows you to capture leads, test your idea, and see if there’s an actual business anywhere in there.
Simply having this site setup is an asset. Maybe you’re creative and come up with a killer domain name. Maybe the domain sucks, but it’s a great idea and a thousand people sign up and say they’re interested. Maybe you found the perfect combination of keywords that lead to great SEO rankings.
Any of those things are building the value the asset – ie your new site.
Whether you develop the asset, sit on it forever, or sell it later on, you’ve got something you didn’t have before. You’ve put all of the essential online business skills into practice.
And most importantly:
By the time we’re done here you will have done somehing. You’ll have made something real, and built your confidence along the way.
Does This Have to Be a Business?
While building this asset, you may be wondering if this constitutes a business. You could be asking yourself “what’s the point? What am I getting out of this?”
Putting the confidence and skill building aside, let’s look at a couple quick examples of this.
So in the meantime, I put up a cool landing page and I’m leveraging it. I’ve used that domain to score free (or greatly reduced) hotel rooms all over the world.
When the site launches in whatever form it will, I’ll promote all of the places I’ve gotten rooms for, but in the meantime I’ve used it to benefit an interest of mine.
Same with Breaking Eighty. Haven’t launched yet, but have still scored some free golf products from it.
Are these businesses?
Maybe, maybe not. Right now, they certainly aren’t. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t assets that I can use to my advantage!
So, let’s get this rolling. In the steps that follow I’ll show you exactly what you need to do to build out this first asset – what you do after that is totally up to you, but if this is your first business or venture online, I promise you’ll feel more confident, empowered, and excited by the time all is done.
Step #1: Pick a Domain
First thing’s first: don’t over think this.
Right now, this is more important as an exercise than a business. If I were you, I’d come up with a domain name around something you’re interested in or a hobby. This will make it more fun for you throughout the process.
Don’t think of this as anything more than an experiment and exercise that you’re doing today. Who knows what it’ll become in the future, but don’t worry much about that.
Focus on a basic idea. Here are some examples:
- Ebook teaching people how to
- Video course teaching people to play the trumpet
- Reviews of the top 100 golf courses in the country
- How to setup a completely wireless home theater
Step #2: Buy a Domain
It doesn’t matter where you do this, but Hover is one of the best companies out there for this type of stuff. May be a little more expensive than major competitors, but I’ve found it to be worth it. I also use Name Cheap on a regular basis as well – as their name says, cheaper than most.
Step #3: Setup Hosting
If you’re reading this blog you should have no excuse for not having a hosting account. You can often get them for as cheap as $36/year. While it may not be the best hosting, if you’re just getting started, really anything will do.
Step #4: Point Nameservers
All you’re doing here is telling your domain registrar which hosting account to point the domain to. Regardless of what hosting you use, there should be pretty clear instructions for how to do this.
Step #5: Install WordPress
Once again, any basic hosting account should have a one-click install WordPress. Login to your hosting dashboard, follow the instructions, and within 2 minutes, you’ll have a fresh WordPress install, thats ready to go!
Step #6: Install Theme
Ok, now this is where we can take our little exercise one of two directions.
One direction would be to actually setup and install a blog theme, and start writing content. But that takes more dedication, more time, and we don’t even know if this is going to be a feasible idea yet. So while you can totally grab a Woo Theme or Theme Forest theme, I recommend going the landing page route.
All this means is we are going to put up a sexy landing page and capture email addresses of people who are interested in what you’re offering. Even right now, I have three different ideas I’m testing:
Here’s what you do:
- Download Launch Effect
- Install Launch Effect
- Find a big, beautiful photo relating to your site
- Use these tips for getting the site setup. And these instructions for getting that cool transparent effect.
Step #7: Sign Up for Mailchimp
Ok now that you’ve got a sexy look landing page, time to actually make that email list do something useful. I personally use Aweber, but Mailchimp is cheaper starting out, and is one less monthly expense while you’re starting up.
Follow the instructions for setting up a new list in Mailchimp, and then pop into Launch Effect and use the integration tools to get it all setup.
Now you have a way to build a list, offer something for free via email, and gauge interest for your new project.
Step #8: Setup Google Analytics
This is pretty easy to do, but absolutely essential. This is how you’ll track whether or not people are coming to your site, help you figure out what your conversion rates are, and help you optimize for the search engines.
Step #9: Setup Social Accounts
If this is a brand that you’re really hoping to grow and evolve, you’ll want to make sure you procure the necessary social accounts as quickly as possible. Twitter handles, Facebook pages, Pinterest, you name it.
Even if you’re not sure you’ll use it, grab it anyway. Better to control everything relating to your brand then have someone else be able to mess with you later on.
Congratulations on Your New Web Asset!
Congratulations! You could do nothing else from here, and you still will have an asset that you can leverage in the future.
However, this is a good time to look at some of the options for what you could actually do with this asset now that it exists.
Let’s take a look at how I’ve been leveraging my sites as they currently stand.
Best Hotel Suites
I’ve had this site up for the last 4 months, and essentially I’ve been using it to build up a barrage of hotel reviews. At some point I’m going to launch this site. I’ll have some kind of blog component where I review high end hotels and suites.
I haven’t completely decided what else the site will contain, but I know in one form or another it will have those reviews.
So how does this help me?
Well anytime I travel I email some hotels, I tell them what I’m doing, and ask if they’d be willing to give me a room in exchange for a review.
So far I’m batting about 25% on room offers. Pretty freaking good if you ask me! This one site which took me about an hour total to get completely setup has saved me at least $1k in hotel costs.
File under: Hacking the High Life
Not to mention I then get to write about a topic I like, and build a relationship with the establishments. Just make sure you’re up front about your plan with the sites, and don’t promise anything you can’t deliver on.
Same drill as above, except Breaking Eighty will probably be my next site to launch. I’ve already received review copies of some awesome golf products (and written in depth reviews on them).
This site has solely been a way for me to turn my love of golf into a business. We’ll see what shape it actually takes as we move into the new year, but I’m pretty excited about it. That said, even as it stands I’ve had a surprising amount of success in forming relationships with golf companies.
Does This Spark Any Ideas?
Those are a couple ways I’ve leveraged similar assets. Here are some of the other things this exercise can do for you:
- Serve as a squeeze page for an upcoming product launch
- Vehicle for testing an email series on a smaller audience
- Build your confidence and skills for setting up WordPress websites
- Turn these landing pages into a service you offer
The options are really endless. Now that the latest versions of Launch Effect integrate with both Aweber and Mailchimp, it’s easier than ever to get something useful set up.
Advanced Asset Building Steps
So we’ve covered some of the basic things you need to do in order to get the very basics of an online asset created. However how can we apply some advanced strategies to this in order to test ideas faster or scale into a larger project?
Optional Step #10: Find a More Permanent Theme and Install Theme Test Drive
One of the primary ways I leverage Launch Effect is to use it for the above reasons while I’m building out a larger scale project.
How do you do this? I usually find a premium theme that has the general look and feel that I want for my new website or blog. I install it on the blog, and then download and install the plugin Theme Test Drive.
What does this do?
It makes it so that when I’m logged in, it shows me one theme, but it shows everyone else a different theme.
In this case it will show the average user the basic landing page, while I can write content and build out the primary site. Once everything is done and ready to launch all I have to do is turn off the plugin and activate my primary theme.
It took me 2 years to find a good way of doing this, and this is without a doubt the best thing I’ve found.
Optional Step #11: Send Adwords Traffic for Testing
Have a fantastic idea, but aren’t sure if everyone else thinks it’s as awesome as you do? Test it.
Fire up some Google Adwords or Facebook ads and start driving a little bit of traffic to the site. Usually with a couple hundred dollars of ad spend you’ll get a sense of whether or not people will want to buy your product or service.
There’s a good chance if you drive traffic directly to a Launch Effect landing page, your account will get flagged. So the best way to actually test an idea is to put up a sales page. Every time someone hits the buy button count that as a sale, and just give them a message that the product is in the works and you’ll notify them when it’s live.
There are all sorts of ways you can move forward from here, the goal of this exercise was just to build confidence in your ability to build something online.
In the future, you can use this method to build out the beginnings of real online business ideas.
However, if you’ve read my articles in the past, you know that I don’t think this is necessarily the best business strategy when you’re just getting started.
You’re better off building some skills first.
So let your new found asset simmer for awhile. Go build the other key tennets of a good business first, and then when you’ve got some traction come back to your new asset, or create a new one using this process and launch the hell out of it.
Have you built an online asset before? Tell us about it!