With every passing day — every passing hour — the global online marketplace becomes more competitive. The number of people using the internet to top up their incomes (or even provide them completely) continues to soar, making it harder for each entrepreneur to get ahead.
It isn’t all bad, of course: this is only possible because of how much opportunity is out there, and you don’t have to fight over the same revenue streams as everyone else. If you can think carefully about what you’re doing, and make smart choices as a result, you can still turn a tidy profit through working solely online.
The most important thing is that you keep up with the changing times. Old-school tactics aren’t going to get you anywhere today, let alone in 2020. It’s time to think like a modern entrepreneur and adjust your business to ramp up your revenue. Here are 7 tips for doing just that:
Work on your personal brand
Want to pick up the pace? Offering impressive products, services or even information isn’t going to get it done. You need to embrace the modern concept of a personal brand — even if you’re a sole trader, you still need to develop a memorable name.
The chances of people just happening upon your website and wanting to spend money somehow aren’t great in isolation. Earn a positive reputation, though, and people will outright seek your website instead of just finding it.
How do you do it? Well, it all starts with figuring out the qualities you want to be associated with you, and how you want to be perceived. Your first step should be creating a comprehensive set of brand guidelines featuring everything from the fonts and colors you use to the tone you want to get across.
Having different logo versions is useful for different situations. Image credit: DAMS Library
Are you funny? Reassuring? Confident? What’s your main value proposition? Before people seek you out, they should have some idea what to expect. Those unique elements will help you stand out from your competitors and pick up more business.
Start accurately valuing your time
A common problem with entrepreneurial types is that they unknowingly waste their valuable time. They spend it on tasks that should be delegated internally or outsourced and charge too little for their services (and consultations in particular).
If you want to increase your earnings, you need to start believing in what you bring to the table and begin charging people accordingly. It’s a frustrating quirk of human psychology that we let people shape our opinions of them — when someone confidently asks for a lot of money, you assume they’re worth it, and when they ask for relatively little, you assume they’re incompetent.
This is nonsensical, of course. A fantastic entrepreneur can undervalue their services in an overdone effort to be fair, while a mediocre entrepreneur can charge comical sums because they’re not smart enough to realise their mediocrity.
I’m not saying you should inflate your client rates enormously — just stop making small allowances for extra work and extra hours worked. If you put your foot down, your clients will likely end up respecting you more, and you’ll make more money.
You should also make every effort to optimize your productivity (here are some handy tips for working more efficiently) because it isn’t expertise in a field that makes you effective at plowing through tasks: it’s the right mindset combined with the right set of tools. Charging too little for your time is bad enough, but it’s considerably worse for you to waste your own time.
Deploy a content marketing plan
Part of building a great personal brand is establishing your expertise in your chosen area, and perhaps the best way to do that is to engage in some high-quality content marketing. You can offer expert advice, answer common questions in your field (AnswerThePublic is great for this), and generally stake your claim for being considered an authority.
AnswerThePublic offers an interesting visual style.
The reason you need a content marketing plan is that scattered ad-hoc content isn’t effective. If you release a blog post one week, then nothing for months, then three more posts, then those posts probably won’t get read. Why would people keep returning to a blog that’s almost never updated? Only by updating regularly can you make your blog a popular destination (if you don’t yet have a blog, follow this comprehensive guide to starting one).
Use a combination of keyword research (here are some viable keyword research tools) and audience research to identify the types of content worth investing in, then create a schedule and commit to it. Releasing a new piece of content every week (and promoting that weekly update schedule) is a good starting point.
Keep releasing content that stands out and provides value for your audience while keeping it natural and consistently branded and you’ll eventually see your brand attracting some interest. Enough interest to push people to work with you (or buy from you).
Try some affiliate marketing
Speaking of getting people to work with you, you don’t need to stop there — you can attract brands if you establish enough sway in your niche, promoting their products and services in return for some kind of payment (it can be direct, but it’s usually on commission). This is known as affiliate marketing, and it’s a huge force behind social media influencers.
Many social media personalities abuse this method, taking large payments and claiming to love products they haven’t used or outright dislike, but you don’t need to approach it in that way. It’s entirely possible to carry out ethical affiliate marketing.
Does this count as ethical? An athletic competition promoting fast food?
Here’s how that works: there are inevitably various products and services that you use in your everyday life, whether for your business or for your personal life, and you’re entirely justified in talking about them to the people who follow you. They no doubt want to know how you live, and want to benefit from your advice.
If you reach out to the brands you’re already recommending, you can form professional relationships where you continue to mention their products where relevant and they offer you some kind of compensation.
You can — and should — be totally transparent about it, openly telling people about the affiliate scheme. They’ll understand, and it won’t hurt your brand.
Get your accounting under control
Having financial issues due to poor accounting isn’t a rare problem for small businesses or entrepreneurs. When you’re putting all your energy into growing your operation, you don’t really want to delve into spreadsheets and start calculating your cash flow — but that’s exactly the sort of thing you need to do if you’re going to cut back on your costs.
What you can expect from a cash flow spreadsheet. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
You have the option of hiring a financial officer or investing in an expensive accounting system, but neither of those things is strictly necessary (and each can eat into the profits you’re trying to increase). Instead, consider using a free tool like Wave’s accounting software to keep all your figures in line without draining your resources.
What are you looking to accomplish? Well, better accounting will more clearly highlight where your money is going, and you may find that you’re wasting money with your purchasing habits. You might even notice an issue with the payments you’re receiving, prompting you to investigate further — if your clients aren’t paying what they owe you, you need to do something about it.
Adopt a multi-channel approach
The online world is immense, and there are so many ways to reach potential customers that sticking to the same old options is hugely impractical. Imagine being unemployed and looking for work — what would give you the best chance of finding something great?
Consider these two options: spending a long time customizing your user profile on one job listing site, or getting listed on as many similar sites as possible. Which would help you the most? The latter, surely. It’s all about maximizing your exposure through reusing content.
Going multi-channel isn’t as complex as it sounds. It really just means that you should try to use your content and social media activity as broadly as possible. Don’t just share your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook: use a tool similar to Hootsuite to ensure that every post goes across every suitable platform, massively increasing the ROI of everything you write.
These days there’s a lot of emphasis on omnipresent marketing as a means to increase your opportunities and chances of being found, however If you are a small start up or individual with limited budget and time I recommend you master one social network or bookmarking site before diluting yourself too thin by using several at the same time.
Software can definitely help you to keep up the minimum on all of the social networks that matter to your business but you want to avoid spending hours in each platform each week.
The best tool I have found to help you become omnipresent and automate your social media is Jarvee which you can learn more about on this roundup of social media tools.
Optimize your website / CRO
You can do all kinds of marketing, building up a compelling brand and bringing in a lot of relevant traffic, but it won’t help if your website is letting you down. In many cases, your homepage is your value proposition and a chance to convince your audience and gain their trust.
Take some time to optimize your website and you can increase your profits with the same amount of traffic you already expect.
This process is often called CRO which stands for conversion rate optimization and includes optimizing every aspect of your website.
What should go into the process? For a start, you should ensure that your site is performing well, loading quickly and not showing any glaring gaps in content.
You should also put a lot of thought into the quality of the content. However good your marketing content is, your website content should be even better. Keep working on it, iterating again and again, because there’s no such thing as perfect website copy.
And if you run an eCommerce site, then take a close look at your navigation, your on-site search function, and your checkout. These elements, in particular, can cause a lot of problems when implemented incorrectly. Bad navigation can drive people away, poor search can cause opportunities to be wasted, and a slow checkout experience can lose a sale at the last second.
Another great way to improve your conversion rate is to look at things like the buyer intent or search intent behind the keywords you want to rank for and make sure your content is aligned with the webpages that rank on page 1 for that keyword or phrase.
You also want to look at if you could improve your meta titles and descriptions to better match what people are searching for when they see your site listed in Google’s search engine results pages.
More clicks from Google means you will have more people to potentially take the next step in your funnel.
There you have it: 6 ways to improve your online earning and profits for 2020. Build your brand, believe in the value of your time, sort out your finances, start content marketing, promote yourself across channels, and polish your website. Good luck!