Once upon a time, virtually all jobs required you to be in a particular physical location, under the supervision of a series of bosses, while wearing work-appropriate attire, and committing your time to a schedule set by your employers, for at least 5 days a week.
With the meteoric rise of the internet in a historically short period of time, everything has changed in a profound and almost unimaginable way, and entire new industries have sprung up as a result. These days, the tech industry is as dynamic as it’s ever been, and digital entrepreneurs are changing the way we interact with the world around us on a virtually daily basis.
This, by itself, is already a major deal — to the extent that it would be impossible to properly outline what a radical shift it’s been from the previous social norms.
On top of this, though, there is also the sheer level of autonomy that the internet and related industries have granted us. Like never before, more and more of us are now able to engage in fruitful and profitable careers — both in the financial and in the emotional sense — from anywhere in the world. Some of us work from home as freelancers; others step into the much-envied role of the globetrotting, web-based entrepreneur who is more or less on something like permanent semi-vacation.
The relative freedom of this kind of lifestyle has meant that it’s constantly growing in popularity, with more and more people taking steps to remove themselves from the world of conventional work, and step into the life of the web-based entrepreneur. Something about being able to do your job in your pyjamas, from your living room, seems to be a big selling point.
Of course, as with any other job, stepping into this lifestyle isn’t all fun and games. You need to have a clear action plan in mind, you need to have the right skill-set (or to be willing and able to attain it), and you have to know how to navigate the ins and outs of this domain.
Here are some things you should know about becoming a web-based entrepreneur. Keep these points in mind, and you’ll be in a decent position to get started.
Your marketing efforts will likely need to be all but relentless
Especially in the beginning of your life as a web-based entrepreneur, you’re likely going to have to go all out on your marketing efforts as if everything depends on it. Because it kind of does.
Established and successful businesses thrive, in part, because they have a strong presence in the industry. They are known quantities that people respect and can identify with. They have a substantial roster of professional contacts in place, and they can reach out to vast numbers of prospective clients or customers at the drop of a hat.
As a new web-based entrepreneur, you’re likely not going to be in that fortunate position, at least not at the start. To compensate for this, you’ve got to double down on your marketing efforts and do whatever you can to make everyone aware of your existence, and also to encourage them to see the benefits that can be obtained by using your services.
Everything from cold emails and calls, to sponsored PPC ads, guest blog posts, attractive graphics and banners, and in-person appearances at trade events should be on your radar.
Marketing is, in fact, of such fundamental importance to your career success, that having a background in marketing, or any relevant qualifications in the field should be considered a major plus. Signing up to an online MBA marketing program by Walsh University, for example, could have a disproportionately large impact in your ability to leverage and sell your business effectively.
Keep in mind the fundamental issue here — as a new entrepreneur; you are always going to be something of an unknown entity. Add to that the fact that you’re working online, and you need to be aware that you all but invisible to everyone and anyone, until you take active steps, through your marketing, to change that.
Until you’ve put in some work, your website likely won’t even be on the first 5 pages of Google’s search results for your chosen keywords. It’s all on you to change that and to make people aware of the basic fact that you exist.
Lacking the structure of a conventional office space, you can easily fall apart — establishing order has got to be one of your top priorities
Many people are completely intoxicated by the freedom that becoming a solopreneur offers, to the extent that, once they take the first step into their new career and lifestyle, they are frequently struck by confusion, anxiety, and the inability to put things together in an orderly-enough manner to get meaningful work done.
It’s a strange irony that the very freedom that you were looking forward to when transition to the entrepreneurial life can also sink you if you’re not careful.
In a conventional office job, there are mechanisms in place to ensure that you stay on point. Sure, it’s all but a given that you’re going to be annoyed by your boss, your dress-code, and your predetermined working hours, such as they are, but those things nonetheless play a vital role in keeping you focused and productive.
When you set out on your own, the entire structure of your previous working day evaporates, literally overnight. For the first couple of days you’re likely to be overwhelmed by how awesome it feels to wake up when you want, work when you want, take a nap if you want, etc., but in a short space of time you’ll either need to impose a structure on your days or else you’re going to have a genuinely bad and unproductive time of things.
For that reason, one of your top priorities, when you’re setting out as a web-based entrepreneur, should be to figure out how to structure your days, and to put the right accountability mechanisms and systems in place to keep yourself on track.
Of course, it should go without saying that you should tailor your schedule so as to best suit your lifestyle. But don’t just completely “wing it”.
You really need to make time for regular social activities to get out of your own head
One of the main banes of the solopreneur is that they are, well, solo. That is to say — the human interaction you’d generally get from your colleagues and work contacts is now gone, and so it can be all too easy to find yourself somewhat socially isolated.
This risk is especially apparent if you also find yourself working around the clock to get your business off the ground, which, in all likelihood, you will, at least for a time.
The thing is, humans are social creatures, and even the more introverted of us need to have a degree of social interaction in our lives in order to stay centred, grounded, and positive.
All this is to say that, when you set out on your entrepreneurial career, you really need to make time for regular social activities, whether that means hanging out with friends to play board games once a week, joining classes and hobby groups, or whatever the case may be.
The internet opens up the marketplace — finding your USPs is really important
One of the things about the internet which is both a blessing and a curse, is the fact that it “opens up the marketplace” in a way that was never before possible on human history.
Not too long ago, your job competition was quite strictly limited by your geography, in most cases. If you were one of only a handful of guys in your city who had a particular skill, for example, you could generally assume you were pretty well set in your career.
With the internet, the whole world is connected — and this especially means that as a web-based worker, your “competition” now encompasses the better part of the entire world.
Of course, there’s an upside to this. There is now a much bigger market via which you can ply your trade. But it’s also the case that you need to work significantly harder than you might otherwise, in order to differentiate yourself from your competitors and professional rivals.
What this means, essentially, is that it’s extremely important for you to find your USPs, to develop them, to communicate them effectively, and to capitalise on them in the most effective possible way.
“USP” stands for Unique Selling Point, or Unique Selling Proposition. It refers to the features of your particular brand or expertise in an area, that set you apart from everyone else who is doing the same thing. A USP is what will grab the client’s attention when they’re looking over a list of 50 similar companies and trying to identify the one to reach out to.
Your USPs can relate to your past job experience, your particular personality and skillset, or your pioneering approach to resolving a particular problem that your clients might be facing.
Whatever the case, your USPs are going to be a significant lifeline in your ability to make a success of yourself as a web-based entrepreneur.
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Walter G. is a software engineer with over 10 years of professional experience. When he isn't blogging or being a CTO he enjoys coding randomly complex things that he hopes many people will get a chance to use one day.