The world is in a state of uncertainty.
Millions of people are losing their jobs (with little-to-no hope that they'll ever return).
According to recent Gallup surveys, the majority of American workers are "not engaged" with their work. This means these workers may be generally satisfied but are not cognitively and emotionally connected to their work and workplace; they will usually show up to work and do the minimum required but will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer.
A disengaged employee doesn't just adversely affect him or herself. In fact, it's noted that for every $10,000 in salary, 34% (or $3,400) is wasted by the employer due to lack of production, absenteeism, and more.
I know this was me at one point in my life.
- I was showing up a few minutes late to work every day.
- I was working for a boss that didn't respect me.
- I was showing up for meetings — asking questions I knew would be discounted just so I could give the illusion of "showing up."
- I was faking my sales call figures so I could meet my quotas.
- I was taking constant "water cooler breaks" just so I could get away from the work at hand
Plain and simple — I was miserable.
Of course, all that disengagement caught up to me as I was fired from my position.
And just like every firing story — it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
It was the greatest thing to ever happen to me because it woke me up to the life I was living and offered me a new perspective as to what I wanted in life.
It set me on a journey to uncover, test, and build various online businesses that have helped me create a viable and sustainable income, work on the projects that fulfill me, help create a prosperous and gratuitous community, and live life on my own terms.
If I were in a position today similar to what I experienced 8 years ago — I would want to know what low-cost, high-potential online business opportunities were available to me today in 2021.
These are the high-potential, low-cost online business opportunities for newbies. I have either direct and primary experience with these business opportunities or have plans to build it soon. I have also included the difficulty level — this refers to commitment level, expertise, and length to launch.
Let's take a look…
Newbie Opportunity One: Online Content Creation
More and more people keep flocking to the internet to share their thoughts, skills, knowledge, and abilities.
It's changed the way we produce and consume content as a human species.
In 2021, I can find a community of like-minded people interested in a common topic. Now, there are many different ways you can go about this:
- You can create video content (YouTube/Twitch)
- You can create written content (blogging)
- You can create audio content (podcasting)
Or you can combine all three.
Now, when creating a business with content creation — it's more than just producing content and putting it out for the world to see.
Why is that?
Because for something to be a "business" it needs to satisfy a specific goal.
No… I'm not just talking about money (though that is a byproduct of the specific goal).
In order for something to be considered a business, it needs to solve an audience/population's problem.
I've written about this idea probably a zillion times now — I want to drive this home for you. When you are creating a business, you are always going to need to be answering these questions,
- "What's in it for me?"
- "How does this help me solve my problem?"
The first question addresses why the audience should be taking notice of you. Are you going to make them more informed (news outlet)? Are you going to entertain? Are you going to teach coding?
The second question actually addresses a specific problem. It's the solution to the problem and it's provided in the content.
- I am going to help you learn python.
- I am going to entertain you by playing video games.
- I am going to teach you how to believe in yourself and set goals (self-improvement/coach).
This has to be addressed in everything you create.
Pick a content creation platform and start creating [problem-solving] content.
This is easy because you can start for free and start earning through advertising redistribution and membership payment redistribution.
It can take years to fully get off the ground using this as your business alone.
Newbie Opportunity Two: Writing A Book
This is one of my favorites and it's how I make thousands of dollars every month.
No. I'm not saying you need to write the next New York Times Bestseller. I'm also not even suggesting you create a physical book (even though those freshly printed pages would probably smell orgasmic).
I'm also going to up the ante with you on this one.
Many of you probably know that you can write, upload, and publish a book on Kindle.
I'm not going to go that route with this article. It's not what I do (and remember, I told you I only wanted to talk about the things that I intimately understand). Plus, Kindle takes a portion of your earnings with each sale.
I'm not about that.
Are you familiar with the artist, Macklemore?
He's a Seattle-based hip-hop artist who came on the scene in 2012 with songs like, "Thrift shop" and "Can't hold us" that was included on the album, The Heist. Now the most important thing to take away from this album is that it was 100% independently produced.
That's right. Macklemore and his production partner, Ryan Lewis, completely self-published the album in 2014. This is completely unheard of. As it's noted in a 2014 Wall Street Journal article, Macklemore notes,
“We made this album without a record label,” he said, “We made it independently and we appreciate all the support.”
Why is this important?
Why do we care about this?
I like to call what Macklemore & Ryan Lewis did the "Macklemore Model"
I don't know if anyone has already called it this…
Instead of going the traditional route and finding a record label, going through scores of revisions that take away from the original vision, and [most importantly] take millions of dollars from the artist in exchange for distribution, etc.
The same goes for publishing. You can take the traditional route and find a publisher (who will accept your work), go through countless revisions to your work, and have them take a huge cut to distribute the book.
You can create your own digital-download book, write it the way you want it to be written, and keep 100% of the earnings.
Do you know how Macklemore built a big enough following to sell 1.3 million copies of the aforementioned Heist album?
YouTube and content creation. That's right — Macklemore used content creation as a marketing means for his yet-to-be-completed album.
Now — you don't need to amass selling 1.3 million copies of your ebook. If you were to sell 10 units a month at $20.00 a unit (again — without any publisher taking money off the top), you are looking at generating an extra $200 a month from your book.
Is that life-changing money?
Of course not.
But that's perhaps a car payment taken care of. It's just under $2,500 for the year! I don't know about you, but that money would help me out tremendously!
Selling your ebook is a bit tougher than just producing content on a content site. This is for a few reasons:
- It is more focused and detailed work (the structure of writing a book).
- It needs to be packaged (design, copy, headline, etc.)
- You need to upload it (either via your own site or a third party like Gumroad. Going the Gumroad route is going to be easier seeing as you don't need to build out your own site.)
- You need to drive traffic (though your content creation should help with that).
- You need to create sales funnels to increase sales conversions.
I would say, considering my own experience, the creation of the book is probably the biggest hurdle. Once that is created, you can test out a few different selling strategies. Like all writers, however, I wanted to edit and re-edit the book ad infinitum.
Newbie Opportunity Three: Online Courses
If you haven't noticed — we started small and we're going to keep growing.
Now, the more you become an expert in your niche and the more you create content, the more you'll be able to parlay all of that into bigger and more expensive products.
Don't believe me?
Look at what fool.com (Motley Fool) can do with its digital offerings (see image 3.1)
Is this a "course" per se?
But they do have courses and they offer them for hundreds of dollars.
One of the biggest hurdles at this stage is the lack of confidence content creators have in putting a large dollar amount behind their course.
But you are the expert:
- You put in the time.
- You outlined the content.
- You provided the value.
- You should be rewarded for it all.
A passage from an incredible book, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin helped me put this into proper perspective,
"Selling can feel selfish. We want to avoid hustling people, and so it's easy to hold back in fear of manipulating someone. Here's an easy test for manipulation: if the people you're interacting with discover what you already know, will they be glad that they did what you asked them to?"
I know when I started creating and selling my courses, I felt anxious knowing the price tag I was asking for ($300 for access to the course).
Really, after selling hundreds of courses and making thousands of dollars, I now see where the anxiety came from. It wasn't because I put a dollar amount behind the course — I was afraid of the unknown.
I knew what I created satisfied Godin's above idea,
"…if the people you're interacting with discover what you already know, will they be glad that they did what you asked them to?"
The answer what a resounding "yes" for me.
I knew I loaded my product with extreme amounts of value.
This is a question I would ask yourself when you create (or plan to create) your own course. If you cannot answer "yes" perhaps you need to add a bit more value.
How to do it:
Now, I've written about building an online course and self-hosting via a WordPress site and course platform. That's the way I do it.
I'm not going to do that in this article, however.
Because I want the lowest barrier to entry when it comes to launching and selling the course for you.
I know — I'm so kind…
Building out a site takes a lot more time (however, you have complete agency control when you do it this way).
For our purposes here, however, we're going to again turn to our friends at Gumroad.
I'm doing this because they have everything that you need already. Of course, what we're missing is the "Macklemore Model" when we take this approach (they'll take 5% of each sale starting and they cap the number of customers you have).
All you have to do is:
- Upload your content
- Configure payment processing
- Set a price
- And drive traffic to the store
Now that last part is the hardest. But again — if we're building upon each "newbie method" you should be able to drive some traffic to your Gumroad store.
This is what I used to use (again, now I host via my WordPress site so I have more control).
Cost: Free membership to the platform & 5% of every sale
This is harder than the two aforementioned business opportunities.
It's by no means impossible, however.
Just because something is hard, it doesn't mean you should let cynicism in and halt you before you start.
If you've been building content and you got your feet wet with some sales via the ebook, consider this as a similar thing, but with more value and thus a bigger price tag.
That plus the amount of work it is going to take to produce the entire course. I've personally been able to sell about $1,000 worth of courses in one day:
What's the most important metric for you?
At this point — pacing $5,000 in digital sales for the month would be great. However, I wouldn't set my sites on that goal straight away…
I would focus on a goal that precedes sales.
I would focus on getting the first lesson completed.
- And then the next lesson.
- And then the first chapter.
- And the second.
- And then a completed course.
- And then upload it to Gumroad.
- And then finally I would aim for your first sale.
I include the above image just to show you what's possible.
But it isn't the first step. We covered that about two thousand words ago…
Newbie Opportunity Four: Membership Sites
Everything we've built up until this point is amazing.
Really — it can radically change one's financial situation (whether at the side-hustle scale or full-time scale).
But you know what is even better than all of that?
Consider this — it's great to make sales of your books and courses. However, what happens when you sell $5,000 one month and $500 the next?
Things become sporadic and uncertain. What does uncertainty bring?
I don't know about you, but uncertainty for me brings anxiety.
Maybe I'm just paranoid…
A membership site allows you to provide on-going (key) content for a monthly subscription.
Think of this as the "Netflix Model" (though I'm sure there are other academic classifications of this — most notably "subscription model").
Netflix has to keep providing new content for your subscription to be of value.
When you're creating content (opportunity one) and parlaying that into packageable and valuable products (opportunities two and three) you can keep building newer and more valuable content and products, and instead of selling all of it for a one-time price, you can charge a membership for your audience so whenever someone new is added — there is no extra charge.
Sure, you might not make $1,000 in a day (at least at first) but you can forecast the earnings more accurately.
How to do it:
There are many ways to skin a cat here.
Of course, we could always point to our old friends, Gumroad (yes — they offer memberships also) but I want to diversify…
Let's turn to Substack when outlining this opportunity.
Substack allows you to create content and provide the content in two ways:
- For free
- and behind a membership paywall
Substack allows you to collect subscribers through the platform. Now, not all subs are going to be paying, however, that doesn't mean there is an opportunity.
Substack notes that on average, creators see a paying-subscriber rate around 5–10%. Let's take a look at some of the creators (see image 4.1):
Unfortunately, Substack doesn't disclose the exact number of subscribers — at least we can go off of “thousands.”
Let's assume "Cup of Coffee by Craig Calcaterra" has 5,000 or so subs…
- let's also assume that 10% of his subs are paying subscribers
- That roughly could be $3,000 a month due to membership fees (500 X $6 a month = $3,000)
Now Craig might see a little fluctuation month-to-month. However, if he has been able to build his list to thousands of subscribers, he probably keeps steadily growing.
Cost: Free to use platform, 10% charge for monthly paying subscribers
This opportunity is probably the hardest.
Because you have to keep providing excellent content. It isn't just one or two products and then sells them ad infinitum (because they're digitally replicating).
You're also going to need:
- To build or already have an email list built
- To drive traffic to your content on this site
- Test out membership fees
- Test ways to increase conversion rate
It is the hardest on the list — but it is the most rewarding (both financially as well as mentally).
It's never been a better time to create your own online business.
In this article, we've gone over four opportunities you can start in 2021 to get started in the space.
Each opportunity builds upon one another — that's the best part.
What are those opportunities?
- Opportunity one: Online content creation
- Opportunity two: Writing a book
- Opportunity three: Online course creation
- Opportunity four: Membership sites
All of these opportunities have their varying level of commitment, difficulty, and associated costs (though all of them don't require any substantial investment to get started).
It's recommended if you're looking to strike out on your own entrepreneurial venture, that you start with opportunity one and build upon it chronologically (two and then three, etc.)
What's the most important piece of the entire equation?
That you thank me for this information.
That you start.
Start with one piece of content.
- Then two.
- Then three.
Then start the book with one page.
- And then two.
Then complete the first chapter.
None of this happens overnight.
It takes months of work.
But what's the alternative? You really have two options:
- Prolong and procrastinate and wish you ended up taking a chance
- Or try and make something — maybe it works or maybe it doesn't, but at least you'll know.
The decision is yours.
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