There has never been a better time to start an online business.
Many people ask me what skills and abilities you need to do this. Obviously you need the technical skills necessary to create the product or perform the service you are selling. But that isn’t even half the story.
Here are the skills that I have found to be indispensable:
The ability to write articles
If you ask me to give you one piece of advice that will earn you the most money when starting an online business it would be to blog for business.
The trick is to make the articles as useful as possible because the best SEO for a website is good content. These articles will draw in organic interest in you – some of this interest will be from potential clients.
Everyone can do this. A blog is a great way to find out what works and what doesn’t. If you keep on writing you will improve.
The ability to spell korektli
This may sound obvious but I have found that people will not want to employ someone who makes spelling, grammar or punctuation errors.
The ability to touch type
This is something you don’t hear a lot about but I think it’s an indispensable skill. I’m going to show my age here but I missed the first few matches of the 1990 World Cup to go to evening classes to learn touch typing on an electric typewriter!
You can do this online for free now – so no need to miss important sporting events. Just do a few hours of exercises learning where the keys are so you don’t have to look down at the keyboard when typing. After that it’s practice.
The ability to listen
I know I probably shouldn’t say this but I’m really not the best designer in the world. There, I said it! But I have great clients that come back to me again and again. And the reason for this is that I listen to them properly and give them what they want.
You need to put yourself in the client’s shoes and see things from their point of view. This isn’t only true with graphic design. It’s true with any online business. Put yourself in your client’s, your customer’s or your visitor’s shoes and see your service, your product or your website from their point of view.
The ability to manage client and customer expectations
“Under promise, over deliver.” OK, we’ve heard this one a million times but I try to build this into every project I do and I know it works. Try to surprise the client by giving them something that they didn’t ask for but really appreciate and they’ll keep on coming back to you.
Of course, allied to this is the necessity of keeping your client and yourself in complete agreement of the price and extent of the project at every stage. And you need to have a written record of this.
The ability to cross sell
Cross selling is the practice of selling to established clients or customers. So, when you’re buying from Amazon you will always be offered other relevant items.
This doesn’t only apply to products but I apply this to graphic design services as well. For example, if someone wants website design I will offer them hosting and maintenance.
The ability to contribute to the community
When you are starting an online business it’s easy to get a bit isolated but there is a great solution for this.
Use forums, blog commenting and social media to communicate with other people in your business niche. This means helping people and learning from people. It’s a two way exchange and this is the best way to form partnerships and alliances that will help grow your business.
This is not just online. Contribute face-to-face with local business people as much as you can, as well.
The more you help people; the more people will help you.
The ability to systematize
Systematize – ugly word, beautiful concept.
This means the skill in developing systems in your daily work that can be written down or recorded in order to speed up or outsource the process. There are only so many hours in the day for you to grow your business so your success will be determined by your ability to create systems that can be learned and replicated.
In the business of graphic design people will say: “I can’t do that – every client is different, every design is different – there’s no way I can replicate or outsource design.” Maybe not for the extremely creative aspects of the job but for everything else you can!
The ability to organize your time
Like many business owners, I have never found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and start working. But, like many business owners, I have found it difficult to stop working!
You have to be able to organize and block off your time to perform certain tasks (many people find 25 minute “Pomodoros” useful). Continually review the important parts of your business machine – what needs to be done now and what needs to be done to speed things up in the future.
Well, you need to gather information from wherever you can get it but the two books that have been in my mind whilst writing this article are:
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
- The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
The ability to take action
He’s absolutely right. Yes, in order to start an online business you need action. Just do it!
What about you?
Do you run an online business? Are there any skills you have needed (other than your technical skills) that have surprised you? Let me know in the comments below.
More info about this subject in my Running A Web Design Business e-book.