It’s no secret that learning how to build a successful online-based business comes with a steep learning curve. Smart entrepreneurs have figured out, though, that you don’t necessarily have to learn every step of the process to pull together all of the pieces and come out the other side a winner.
Building an online business opens the doors to being able to effectively hire out every part of your operation without having to deal with going through dozens of applications at each step of the way to find the right personality with the proper skillset to perform the work for you.
However, even though being able to find qualified help online is easier than ever, there is still a (albeit smaller) learning curve that you’ll have to maneuver through.
This article is going to help you navigate through some of the common pitfalls you’ll encounter on your way toward building a successful digital business -- whatever business model you choose.
You’ll also be armed with the information and templates you need to hand off the work to a freelancer and make sure that it’s going to be completed the way that it should.
Before you do anything, you need to figure out what type of business you’re going to build to help you stay focused on the end goal.
There are a few different models you can follow, with some being better than others depending on your current skillset and how good you are at hiring, firing, and overseeing the entire operation.
The models that we’re going to cover are:
One of the simplest digital business models to follow is through niche-focused “made for AdSense” sites or MFA sites. These are, exactly as the name implies, smaller sites that are devoted entirely to selling advertising space.
You’ve seen them all over the internet, with more, and more popping up on social media platforms as of late. The biggest giveaway to an MFA site is the type of content they create and promote.
Think of the last time you read an outrageous headline on Facebook. One that made you want to click through and read the article or watch the video because it invoked an emotion in you -- anger, laughter, sadness, whatever the case may have been.
These sites are most commonly referred to as “clickbait” sites, and make their money by placing advertisements either through programs like Google’s AdSense, and Media.net, or by selling advertising space to private companies who have paid a certain amount for every 1,000 views the website generates on their ads.
Easy to build -- requiring only a domain name, content, and a social media following.
Easy to manage -- requiring only a consistent stream of content that gets clicks.
Require creative writers that typically charge higher rates.
Require you to push the lines of morality, at times -- more clicks are better.
Require high traffic numbers to make a consistent income.
In years past, they tended to rely entirely on Google for their traffic, but Google began the crackdown on this business model somewhere around 2012. That is why you are seeing so many pop up on social media platforms these days.
Having said that, social media platforms are a better fit for the types of content that’s generally produced for these sites.
If you’re completely brand new to the industry, creating these content based sites and promoting them on social media may seem easy -- and for the most part, it is.
However, you need to keep in mind that you need a LARGE amount of content, and huge traffic volumes to make money and that social media platforms tend to be volatile sources of traffic.
Affiliate marketing businesses are one step up from the “MFA” style sites and differ in the amount of money that can be made when you build a successful site.
As a general rule, you’ll be earning pennies per click through advertising programs and MFA sites, while affiliate programs will pay you a percentage of the sales that you generate for them. Most beginners typically resort to using Amazon’s Associates program to provide a stream of income.
Your affiliate earnings will depend on the project that you're promoting. TVs have a measly percentage commission while an article on the best cat food for hairballs will be giving an 8% commission on products sold.
Associates based websites are actually easier to create content for because, for the most part, you simply have to educate the visitor on which products will solve their problems, and then link to those products on Amazon.
Unlimited supply of products to promote, giving you thousands of niches to target.
Easy to increase your earnings percentage by selling more products.
Easy to create content that solves problems because visitors are looking for reviews.
Earnings are limited to 8.5% and require high sales volume to get there.
Affiliate websites are generally the best area for newbies to the industry to start getting their feet wet -- and even build an entire business around.
Since MFA sites typically requires gimmicky content to succeed, affiliate based websites are a lot easier for beginners to understand.
You don’t have to push the limits in terms of content and figuring out what gets clicked on social media, instead focusing on creating content that educates and informs users on products that are available.
As a general rule, affiliate based websites will earn a lot more money in a beginners hands than an MFA site will. They also parlay perfectly into other, even more, profitable business models and can be easily converted down the road.
The next step up the earnings ladder of digital business is through dropshipping physical products.
Dropshipping, if you’re unfamiliar, means to find wholesalers and distributors that have the type of products you’re already promoting on your affiliate site (if you’ve chosen that model) and then requesting access to sell
For example, let’s say you’re promoting bluetooth headsets through the Associates program. When you’re ready to increase your earnings, you can find a wholesaler or dropshipping company that sells bluetooth headsets, and then send in a request to become a reseller.
Once approved, you can install shopping cart software on your site, and then markup the products and begin listing them for sale. After a visitor purchases the product, the wholesaler will send them out and you’ll be credited for the sale -- keeping the difference between the wholesaler’s price, and the price you sold them for on your site.
This is as close as you can get to running an eCommerce store without actually having to manage the inventory, and worry about all of the other metrics that come along with running an inventory based business.
Generally higher profit margins than affiliate sites generate.
Opens the doors to using paid traffic sources because of your margins.
Reliant on other companies to maintain consistent inventory.
Requires more work to properly handle customer service.
Dropshipping businesses are best when they’re evolved from existing affiliate websites.
It’s not recommended that you start a dropshipping business from scratch, because you are dependent on too many outside sources, and you can earn substantially higher profit margins by purchasing the products yourself and building a dedicated eCommerce business.
If you’re entertaining the idea of running a dropshipping business, and aren’t already converting your affiliate sites to sell products that you dropship, it’s recommended that you skip past it entirely and start focusing on buying the inventory and selling it yourself.
The profit margins when you’re running an eCommerce based business are substantially higher than what you’re going to find on any dropshipping based site, and easily trump affiliate sites.
If you visualize yourself owning a brand, selling your own products, and taking over your market, eCommerce may be the right business model for you.
The main differences between dropshipping and owning the inventory that you sell is the amount of money that you’ll be making from the same traffic levels.
Dropshipping profit margins typically run between 10% on the low end, and 20% on the high end -- while eCommerce based websites can generate profit margins of up to 100% in some cases.
Follows most standard business practices, making them intuitive to operate.
Operates on the model of buy low, sell high.
Easy to tap into multiple traffic sources for increased revenue.
Requires you to source the products from a manufacturer.
Requires you to have an operating budget to keep inventory flowing.
More millionaires have been made through eCommerce based businesses than just about every other business model we’re laying out for you, except for one.
If you come from a business background, or understand that holding inventory and selling it for a higher price than you paid makes sense, an eCommerce based business model is probably the perfect choice.
There is one model that we recommend to beginners interested in building an eCommerce based site: Fulfillment By Amazon.
Running an FBA business works just like an eCommerce site, except you don’t have to actually own a website.
Somewhere in between
It’s similar to dropshipping in that you do not have to warehouse the products yourself, while it’s also similar to eCommerce in that you’re moving physical products that you buy low, and sell high.
However, one distinct advantage that the FBA model has over the rest is the fact that you’re able to rely on Amazon’s powerhouse marketing team to sell the products for you.
By piggybacking on Amazon’s platform, you tap into the built-in traffic that Amazon spends billions of dollars acquiring every year and funnel it to your own sales pages.
Allows you to sell your own branded products.
Inventory and warehousing taken care of by Amazon.
Insane profit margins once you’re up and running.
Requires you to locate manufacturers and source products.
Requires you to manage customer support inquiries.
Outside of strictly eCommerce based businesses, more millionaires are being made through the FBA platform than through any other digital-based business model these days.
Outsourcing the product manufacturing through foreign countries used to be a thing of the past, offering up sketchy quality control at best.
These days, though, foreign factories are increasing the quality of products being created, giving you a prime opportunity to purchase your own line and start branding them to sell on the FBA platform.
It’s our recommendation that beginners start out
Many successful digital entrepreneurs got their start by creating small niche-focused websites that were devoted solely to selling advertising space or posting affiliate links and earning commissions on referred sales.
As mentioned earlier, the business model you choose comes down to how well you’re able to personally put the pieces of the puzzle together, and effectively outsource the process.
There are also a few other areas you need to consider when it comes to choosing the business model you select:
In other words, the more business experience you have, the better. The more money you have to devote to the project, the better. The more experience you have with managing projects and staying organized, the better.
Starting to get the hint, yet?
The more technical abilities and ability to learn highly technical subjects, the better. The more time you have available to oversee the project and keep it moving forward, the better.
And most importantly, the more patience you have with people who are (typically) working through language barriers, the better.
Sit back, and take a quick inventory how well you check out in each of these areas. That will help you determine how big you can go in your business, and any areas that you may need to work on before you jump in, both feet first.
If your level of experience in these areas isn’t exactly stellar, consider starting out with an affiliate based website until you get the hang of things.
Then, as your skills progress, it’s recommended that you proceed down the path of selling your own products, and converting your website into an eCommerce platform, and utilize Fulfillment By Amazon to reduce your stress levels and make even more money.
Once you’ve figured out who you are, and chosen the right model, it’s time to proceed to the next step -- outsourcing the business.
Whether you choose to build an Associates based website or an eCommerce / FBA based business, you’re going to need to research the products you intend to promote.
Most times, this is going to be classified as “niche research”.
When you figure out the “niche” you want to target, you’ll have a much easier time figuring out who your customers are going to be, what problems they have, which products you’re going to promote, and how you’re going to build traffic to the site.
To get started picking a niche, it’s advised to spend time focusing on areas that you already have experience in.
If you’re unable to pick a topic based on your own experiences or areas of life that interest you, you can also go with the 4 proven verticals, and then figure out a niche market inside of them. Those 4 proven verticals are:
Keep in mind, these are larger markets. You’re going to want to find a subset of customers inside of one of these markets, and then figure out the problems that those customers have -- in order to properly provide solutions (in the form of products and content) to them.
Start by jotting down a list of ideas in the verticals listed above, then spend a bit of time narrowing down your selections to come to a final choice on the niche you’re going to target.
This part requires a bit of gut instinct on your own part. To narrow down and finally select a niche, you want to ensure that it meets the following criteria:
Checking yes in the majority of the areas listed above will help give you a better idea about whether or not the niche is going to be profitable in the long term.
If you have unique insights into the topic, can find bloggers, forums, or social media groups talking about it, are able to locate multiple bestselling products you can promote, and can easily find other sites that you’ll be competing against, it’s a good sign that the niche will work out for you.
Once you’ve chosen a niche topic, you can begin researching products to promote, which will, in turn, give you an idea of the types of content to write later on.
Now is the time to start getting familiar with one of the most popular outsourcing platforms, Upwork.com. You’re going to be spending a lot of time on it in the near future.
To get started, you’ll need to create an account on Upwork, and then complete your profile. Then, you can take the template below to start posting your first product research gig.
Make sure that you inspect each applicant before you hire them, to prevent wasting your own time -- and theirs. While Upwork is a great way to get in front of thousands of freelancers, you’re going to have to figure out how to separate the wheat from the chaff on your own.
In other words, you’re going to come across people who talk a big talk, but end up not being able to deliver what you’re looking for. It’s unavoidable, but can be diminished by verifying their past work history, and relying on reviews from past clients the freelancer has fulfilled work for.
If you wanted to learn more about UpWork, here's a comprehensive review.
For a free alternative to UpWork, check out Hubstaff Talent, a zero fee platform where businesses and freelancers can connect.
Head over to Upwork, and click “Post A Job”.
For this gig,use the job category “Admin Support” and then select “Web Research” as the subcategory.
Now, you need to create a name for your job posting. You can use the name provided below, and adjust it according to your niche.
Job Title: Product & Content Researcher Needed For <niche>
Next, you’re going to need to give an accurate description of the types of work that will need to be completed, along with a list of recommended tools that you think would help the freelancer complete the work to your specs.
Once completely filled out, you will then need to select “One-time project”, and that you “Want to hire one freelancer”.
Continue scrolling down the gig listing, and select “Pay a fixed price”, and then select “Intermediate” for the desired experience level. This will ensure that you weed out the highest cost freelancers, while also keeping the inexperienced providers out, as well.
Since this is a fairly basic project that should only take an hour, or two, to complete, you can set a budget of $50. This price range will entice applicants to apply, while not breaking your budget at the same time.
Now, click on “Freelancer Preferences” and a few more areas will appear. Scroll down to “Screening Questions” and provide the following template to help pre-screen applicants and make sure they can follow directions:
Now, go back over your job listing, make sure everything is as we’ve laid out for you here, and then click “Post Job”.
After a few hours, to a day or two, you will begin receiving applicants. Verify that their pre-screening question is along the lines of what you’re looking for, and then select the best applicant.
Keep in mind, the keyword research portion of this gig is arguably the most important part. You want to make sure that you have a healthy list of keywords to target on your site so that you can ensure the writer is properly implementing them.
If the freelancer provides you with a list of at least 20 keywords (more is always better), offer them a small bonus after the gig has been fulfilled, and then make sure to leave reviews for them.
Once you have the product, content, and keyword research completed, it’s time to start getting your website built. For this, we’ll be using the Upwork platform again.
Now, there are two different paths you can take when it comes to having your website built. You can either research exactly what you want yourself and then pass it off to a freelancer or you can leave the entire process up to a designer.
Researching and pulling together the pieces of the puzzle yourself is going to be the cheaper route to take, but is going to be much more time intensive than hiring a full fledged designer.
However, hiring a designer may be more convenient, but you are going to pay for that convenience because designers charge substantially higher rates.
Handing the work off to a designer is easy, and they’ll know which questions to ask to be able to complete the project for you. For the sake of this tutorial, we’re going to assume that you’re on a budget and want to pull together all of the pieces yourself.
It’s advised that you read through the following forum posts before you start the process of having your site built:
These are also the threads that you’re going to provide to your freelancer as guidance, and the overall strategy they should follow when it comes to completing the project.
The first step in the process is to purchase a hosting account and domain name.
The domain name should be brandable, while still accurately depicting what your brand is about. If you’re unfamiliar with what a domain name is, it’s the address of your new website. For instance, our domain name is “brandbuilders.io”.
When it comes to selecting a domain, it’s always recommended that you purchase a .com for the types of sites we’re teaching you how to build.
Now, you’re going to need to provide your freelancer with the login information, so purchase your hosting account and domain name before you begin taking applicants to handle the work.
Once you have a hosting account and domain name, you can jump onto Thrive’s website, and grab the package that includes their themes, lead generation software, content builder, headline optimizer, and creative widgets.
You’re also going to need to make sure that the designer you choose has extensive experience building websites using Thrive’s themes and content builder.
When you’ve purchased a subscription to Thrive, it’s time to get your designer to work. Head back over to Upwork, and start posting another new job.
Job Title: Experienced Thrive Specialist Required To Design & Build A Website
• Contact Form 7
• WP Super Cache
• Better WordPress Minify
• Yoast WordPress SEO
Now, use the same settings that you created for the first project. Select “One-time project” and that you “Want to hire one freelancer”. You’ll also select that you want to “Pay a fixed price” and then select “Intermediate” for the desired experience level.
Because of the nature of having a project designed, you should set your budget between $500 and $1,000. This will help you ensure that you’ll draw in qualified freelancers who see that your budget is large enough for them to take the time and put in the effort required to do a good job.
Scroll down to the “Freelancer Preferences” then browse to the “Screening Questions” portion. Include the following template, to ensure that you’re getting designers with previous experience using Thrive:
Now, browse back through your job listing and verify that the information is correct. Again, after a few hours (maybe a bit longer, because of the type of freelancer you’re looking for) you will begin getting applications.
Go through each, verify the past examples they’ve given you, and then select the freelancer of your choice. Once you’ve chosen a freelancer, it will generally take a couple of weeks of back and forth emailing to get the job completed.
Skype is a great way to reduce the amount of time it takes, but you have to remember that you can’t rush quality. Let the designer do what they do, and you’ll end up with a high quality website.
When your website is finished, you can order a logo that matches the design. Most times, your freelancer will be able to complete this task for you. If not, they will have a colleague that they can recommend to have the logo designed to fit in with your new website.
You’ve got your market research laid out in front of you, and a brand new shiny website that (hopefully) didn’t stress you out while it was being built.
Now, you need to start getting to work having content produced that will give you a chance to bring in visitors, and potentially convert them into a sale.
You’ll need to take the list of content ideas and keywords that were created for you in the beginning, and use them to help guide your writer’s way towards creating what your website needs to succeed.
Now, hiring a writer can be hit, or miss, but there are a few tips you can follow to keep you from wanting to rip your hair out, or having to go back behind them and fix any errors that happened during the creation process:
If the writer is good at what they do, they shouldn’t have a problem adhering to these requests. However, keep in mind that the more involvement you have in the project, the more your writer is potentially going to request.
If you can verify past examples, and the writer has experience in your niche, you should let them do what they do, and back off as much as possible. Go over the outlines, and the first drafts, only to ensure that the content is relevant and insightful.
Remember, you’re not looking for NYT Best Seller’s level quality here, but you do want to make sure it’s going to be helpful to the visitors that come to your site, and that it follows the guidelines you’ve laid out.
If you're looking to hire an experienced, well-trained and professional team of researchers, content writers and editors, we strongly suggest ContentRefined.
There’re 3 types of content you’re going to need to build a healthy foundation to start promoting in the next step:
• Informational content.
• Social content.
• Product reviews.
Each type of content plays it’s own role in the grand scheme, so you need a healthy amount of every single one.
As a general rule, you’ll want at least (5) informational / educational blog posts, along with at least (5) social based posts that will perform well on social media, and then another (5) product reviews that will funnel visitors from your site over to Amazon.
Remember, though, more content is always better. You want to keep a balance, though, and not weigh your website down with too many product review posts.
Now, let’s get back on Upwork and start posting a new gig.
Job Title: I need a writer to produce content for my niche website.
Educational / informational content. (1,000 words each, minimum)
Social / clickbait content. (500 words each, minimum)
Product reviews. (500 words each, minimum)
Now, you’ll need to edit the same project settings. Select “One-time project” along with “Want to hire one freelancer.” You’ll also want to select the “Intermediate” level for experience, and set a budget for the project.
To get the total budget required for the content, take a look at the instructions provided.
Each article is going to cost the following, considering a 2 cents per word budget:
Remember, though, that content is an area where you tend to get what you pay for, and 2 cents per word is the least you should pay. If you want to ensure that you’re going to get
Each article, at 3 cents per word will cost:
The amount you spend on content is entirely up to you, and the budget you have available. Think about how much you’re spending per word, and then come up with a total word count for each area of content you’re having produced -- educational, social, and product reviews.
Now, in the pre-screening section of your job, put the following instructions:
Once finished, you can submit your job and wait for the applicants to begin rolling in. Verify their information, and then choose the best applicant you think is a fit for the project.
After the writer has wrapped up your content, you can either post it to your website yourself (cheapest option) or contact your designer/developer and ask how much they will charge you to publish the content in Thrive’s Content Builder for you.
Then, your website’s foundation should be ready to start sending traffic to and begin making money from.
The fun part begins, now.
This is where things start to get interesting, and the area of building an online business that tends to set people apart.
The first group is going to try to take shortcuts and the cheapest route possible to bring traffic into their website. The second group is going to look at traffic as an investment, and manage, track, analyze, and optimize for every single visitor that comes through.
The first group is going to spend money (albeit, small amounts) or hundreds of hours of their time trying to bring “free” traffic into their website, only to eventually give up and say that building an online business is a sham.
The second group is going to spend money on quality traffic providers and marketing, and will see their investment begin to payoff over time.
Which group are you going to be in?
I hope you’ve already come to the understanding that there’s no such thing as a “free lunch” and that you need to spend money to make money. If you’re still with us this far into the guide, chances are, you’re a part of the second group.
That means you need to rely on high-quality agencies that have a proven track record for delivering measurable results.
In other words, Upwork probably isn’t going to cut it.
There’s three types of traffic you’re going to use for your site: search engine, pay per click, and social.
If you’re running an affiliate based website, pay per click is generally off the board, because of the costs involved and your smaller profit margins.
Likewise, social media doesn’t tend to convert well for affiliate based websites, so spending big money chasing a social following isn’t necessarily going to pay off.
That leaves search engine traffic. The holy grail of online business.
For both affiliate, and eCommerce / FBA based businesses, search engine traffic is the best type of traffic to focus on.
When you start ranking at the top of the search results, you’ll begin bringing visitors
Because of this, there are, literally, thousands of different “SEO” providers on the internet. Most of them are junk, and will do nothing but harm your
However, some (with proven track results) understand exactly how the search engines work, and know what it takes to get your site ranking at the top of the search results.
We’ve handled the SEO for clients sites, as well as our own for years, and have learned the fine nuances that help high quality sites appear at, or near the top of the search results pages for the keywords they’ve targeted.
When you’re ready to start optimizing your site to rank higher, reach out and let us know. We use safe strategies and provide you with a traffic acquisition guide (
The areas that won’t leave you wondering why you’re not moving up in the search results, while also not worrying about getting your site penalized -- effectively keeping it from ever ranking.
Remember, if an SEO agency guarantees that they’ll achieve #1 rankings for you, run for the hills.
No company can make that guarantee, but some companies can show you past results that they’ve achieved for clients just like yourself, and then show you the strategies that they use to get you solid results.
One aspect of building your business that can’t be outsourced is getting support when you encounter roadblocks.
While we’ve done our best to lay out all the information you would possibly need to properly outsource the development process, it’s impossible to foresee every aspect could cause hiccups, because every person is different in their experience levels, and how well they can communicate their end goal to the prospective freelancer.
One area we can help you in, though, is keeping you from having to deal with the potential frustrations of working with freelancers (usually across the globe) and cut straight to developing the entire business for you.
Every aspect laid out in this guide is an area that we already cover, and have years of experience providing services to clients just like yourself.
When you sit back and think about how much time you’re going to spend building the business yourself, it makes sense that you should consider outsourcing.
We have teams in place that are masters of their craft in every aspect of building successful affiliate and FBA businesses. It’s how we’ve built ourselves a name in the industry, and specifically why we call ourselves the “Brand Builders”.
Instead of spending countless hours outsourcing the process to various different freelancers, hand the work off to us, and let our team of professionals
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