Entrepreneurship•January 15, 2018

How to get first paying customers and start a profitable business without quitting your job

The goal of any business is – making money. Of course, we can do business in order to do good to others, or to build world peace; but if you run out of money, you will shut your business down. We do business not to work in the business, but rather for business to work on us. Therefore, it is very important to grow out of the thought that your business idea is the best; don't take it too personally. Do not marry your ideas, rather test them out first!
Vladimir Kudinov
Co-Founder @Foculty

I know many projects that failed and folded up during the first year of their life. Many founders got carried away with their business ideas, so that they forgot to test whether the idea was feasible on the ground. Sometimes, we are under the sway of such stories, where one is so passionate about his idea, that he pushes forward, weathers through with it, and gets rewarded in the end. Impressed with these stories, many have been pushing forward for a year, two, five years, gradually being digested by the gastric juices of their own businesses. At this point you think that you just have to keep on pushing. But pushing should not be an end in itself. The end is to achieve results as soon as possible and with fewer efforts.

We live in the era of MVP, where any business idea must be launched with minimum funds and time spent on it. Today, we don't need to go all-in, when there is an opportunity to first put to the test any idea that comes to our mind.

Do not rely on one idea, rather think up 5 and make a competition. Think your ideas as rats in a rat race, and root not for a specific idea, but for the one that will win. Then develop the winner into a product to be released to a certain group of people.

If you have read the previous article, you must have followed our instructions on how to create and validate ideas, and come up with 5 ideas that have equal chances to win. But what to do next with these ideas?

Testing out ideas by low-cost means

Figure out the ways how with minimal resources you can test each idea out by selling it to your audience. Find places where the target audience is located, and try to sell them the idea directly. Suppose your idea sounds like this "I sell green tea, which helps designers and creators remain energized all the day and generate crazy ideas."

With this idea, you have a potential audience of designers and creatives which you can find on Dribbble, Behance, Designer News, on Slack Communities, and dozens of forums and blogs. To make sure that designers will buy your tea, you need to get at least 5 orders for your goods. There is no need even to have it in stock.

It is important to keep in mind the golden rule: money in the morning, business in the evening.
Vladimir Kudinov, Co-founder at FocFoc.

In other words, before you make a landing page, arrange payment system, negotiate with suppliers, hire a team, the idea must first pass the test on a target audience. Does the potential audience show any interest in your offer? Will they buy the product? Find ways to test the idea and get sales without investing extra money. You can try whatever you have access to: forums, communities, your facebook, craigslist, eBay, depending on what you are going to sell. If the idea is good, it will definitely wink at you and you'll see the first results.

At first, while testing the idea, you will really have the shakes. You will want to go to Alibaba, negotiate with suppliers, start doing landing page, or look for people who can help you bring about your idea. Your mind will be suspended in the unknown trying to answer at the same time hundreds of questions. It will try to snatch at everything. It will resist "I do not need to test a brilliant idea to understand that it will kick in," "Let's create an online store in 2 months and there we'll be selling the product; we will succeed!", "My friends said that my idea is brilliant."

It is important to keep in mind the golden rule: money in the morning, business in the evening. You will work with the product after you have received at least 5 orders. Any idea must reveal itself before it is deserved to be developed.

But is it really possible to sell a product that you do not have? It is possible and necessary. Before buying goods, negotiating with suppliers, hiring programmers, spending money, you should get at least 5 customers who have given you their money for your product. After the purchase, you can return the money to each buyer and say that the goods are not in stock at the moment, and that you will inform them when it comes. Buyers will get their money back, and you will stay with positive test results.

But what if you never sell a single product? This is also a positive result, and you need to move on quickly to your next idea. In testing ideas, there are no negative results. It is better to drop the idea, which most likely won't work, than to waste on it two years of your time in the future.

If there is no way to test your idea for free, you can create a landing page. Don't worry, you can do it yourself, without skills of a programmer or a designer.

Creating a prototype

Before you go to the landing page builder and start creating your page, it's very important to think over the prototype. What is unique in your offer for the audience? Why should I buy from you and not from your competitors? Is there any evidence of the quality of your product, such as customer feedbacks?

Therefore, to begin with, you need to google the competitors and find their websites. In your search you need to answer the following questions about competitors:

What do they say about their product on the first screen of the site? What tone is used when communicating with visitors? What pictures do they use to represent the product? What feedbacks do they put there? What questions do they raise in the product description?

Additionally, it is useful to google search which advertising texts your competitors use. Your objective is not to copy-paste competitors, but rather to have your own unique description, which elevates you on a completely different level of benefit to the clients.

After you have studied the market, it's time to formulate a unique selling proposition (USP). It is the core of the project told in one sentence: [Company name] resolve a [problem] for an [audience] with a [secret sauce]. If you have completed our guide on generating ideas, then you should already have USPs of your ideas.

An example of good USP is "Karate Kid developed a course for kids to make them strong and healthy without injuries." You have created something unique for your martial arts club and put yourself in parents' shoes, who want their kids to take on karate. Every parent wants their child to be able to stand up for himself and, at the same time, not to get a bloody nose or a broken arm every month. By promising parents no injuries, you immediately make a certain group of people look at your offer, and build your business around this offer.

We described in detail the process of creating a prototype in our "Build & Validate an MVP" guide. This is a step-by-step instruction, in which we described all the steps needed to create a prototype and landing page. By following this step-by-step instruction, you will be able to create an effective prototype, make a landing page based on it, start advertising, and get first visitors. This is the essence of all our knowledge, which we have acquired through experience and many mistakes, but eventually formed into a guide on how to do this process quickly and effectively.

For business, it is better to do your work first with grade B, and then, if the fruits of this work show the result, improve to grade A. Here the 80/20 rule works well. It is better to get 80% of the result for 20% of the time and efforts spent, then vice versa.
Vladimir Kudinov, Co-founder at FocFoc.

Making a landing page

Immediately after we have finished working on the prototype, we go to Tilda, create an account, and start assembling the landing page. On this platform, there is a huge number of pre-designed blocks that you can use to do your page like you do a puzzle. With the right approach, you can make your page in just a couple of hours.

Accept the fact that, most likely, you will not be happy in a visual sense with the result of your work. Perfectionism greatly affects the speed of testing process. For business, it is better to do your work first with grade B, and then, if the fruits of this work show the result, improve to grade A. Here the 80/20 rule works well. It is better to get 80% of the result for 20% of the time and efforts spent, then vice versa. You should spend no more than a week of your time for each landing.

Nowadays, there are many free pictures and illustrations on the Internet that you can use in your work. If you do not have the right photos, take them from Unsplash or Pexels. If you want, you can even find free videos to make your landing page look better. The main thing is – do not spend too much time on it; what is really important in your landing page is persuasiveness and your offer, not an aesthetics.

What you really need to invest time to is the meaning behind your landing. You need to describe your product, its benefits, who it is created for, which problems it solves, and why the audience should trust you and buy your product. If you have done it right, you have done 90% of your work.

Even plain and poorly made landing can sell. But if perfectionism stops you from completing and launching the landing, you will be left with nothing. Therefore, it is better at least something than nothing.

Build Landing Page
We will create a complete landing page with copy, pictures, and all the necessary integrations and notifications.
Copy and images
Working website
Integrations and emails
Purchase the gig
Answer the questions
Provide access

Setting up payment system

After the landing is ready, you need to set up a payment system. This is quite easy, since you can connect PayPal to Tilda and receive orders from clients. If you have a longer process of transaction completion and a user should go through the order on the website first, then you can accept money by issuing an Invoice to the client.

For selling a digital product, it's best to use SendOwl. It has built-in integration, which you can use if you want. For $9 per month, you get access to selling any digital files and services. And it all can be set up right from your personal account. You upload any files, put the price, and the system gives you a link to the checkout page, which you then display on Tilda.

If you sell an e-commerce product, the easiest way is to use Shopify Button. It will cost you the same $9 per month and will enable you to ship orders, communicate with clients, track statistics. Shopify Button is a cheap way to the cool CRM Shopify, full of additional apps that will assist you with different aspects of your business.

Getting traffic

In creating a business, the main problem that start-uppers face is how to get traffic. You have created a product, an email list, got it on Product Hunt, and – nothing. You've got 20 upvotes on Product Hunt and don't know what to do next. You thought that a flow of people would dash into and scoop all the product you sell, but nothing like that happens.

The best way to get scalable traffic to a site is advertising. Advertising is good because it is predictable. It's like coming to your favorite restaurant: you pay money, and they bring you a dish you like. Buying advertising, you welcome traffic of people to your site, people who are the target audience of your product. Then you watch whether your offer is accepted by the audience. If you've got to the point, they will buy the product; if not, then, most likely, your offer is not interesting in principle, or you have chosen the wrong audience.

The huge benefit of the advertising channel is that you are near to the control point, where you can always give more traffic to the site or reduce it if you can not process all the orders. The most predictable traffic can be bought on Google Adwords. You can choose keywords, by which people will locate your site in the search system. When they get on the site, they see the landing page and decide whether your offer attracts them.

You may say "But advertising is expensive!" I often hear this, but advertising is expensive only when it does not bring its results. If you invest $20 in advertising and it brings you $200 in sales, is it expensive? No! The launch of advertising should be seen as a good way to put your offer before the right audience and then get sales.

If you sell green tea, in a few hours, you can create an ad in Adwords and put it in front of users who are looking for green tea.

We have thoroughly explained the process of launching advertising in our manual. Be sure to check it out and apply to launch your project. This manual is written in a simple language and tells you about the steps you need to take to start your business. What principles to use setting up Google Adwords, what budget to choose, how to make first sales, etc. In this manual, we collected all our experience in launching projects and validating ideas.

Apart from Adwords, there are Facebook Ads, Instagram, Twitter Ads. If you are going to sell clothes or gadgets, then you are more likely to use Instagram. As an option, you can pay money to several influencers so that they advertise your product by offering their users a discount. Or you can start advertising by preparing a picture with text, and then see how it works.

Gradually, you should test out each of the 5 ideas you have, using one or two methods of advertising, and find out if it works for you. For each idea, it is better to put about $ 500 on advertising, but you can also start with a smaller budget.

Your first sales

As soon as you received 5 sales of your product, being in profit at the same time, you can sing a victory song and start increasing the amount of traffic. But do not go all-in. Increase traffic little by little every day analyzing the results.

You will see how in no time you'll be getting first income from your business system. At some point, when sales grow, you will need to improve your system so that it processes more orders, leaving your customers satisfied.

Simple actions give great results

Get out of the stupor and start paving your path to the life you have always dreamed of.
Vladimir Kudinov, Co-founder at FocFoc.

It is not rocket science. Each of you can take these simple steps and create your own business, bringing in a constant income. It's time to stop being content with what you have, thinking that a big house and an expensive car is not for you. Each of us can become anything, and you don't need to have a talent for this. All you need is the right mindset tuned into the result, clear goals, and following the instructions.

When I first started driving a car with an instructor, my legs trembled. It seemed to me that I was the first man on Earth trying to drive a car. I just did not understand at that moment how I would ever be able to do it freely and confidently. Then I asked myself "Why can't I learn what so many people have been doing successfully?" I realized that I had no problem and that I would definitely drive.

Why do you still think that you will not succeed, when there are thousands of successfully created and operating businesses in the world, often made by ordinary people. Get out of the stupor and start paving your path to the life you have always dreamed of.

In Foculty we have been creating a community of people who are eager to make business knowledge accessible and understandable. We want to break down any complex processes into easy-to-understand instructions, to enable a new generation of entrepreneurs to start their businesses without fear of unknown.

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