Corbett Barr

Lifestyle Business Weekly

Ask The Readers: What’s the Best Way For a Beginner to Get Started in Online Business?

Happy April, everyone. Instead of doing an April Fool’s post (I actually had one planned but backed out at the last minute – not sure I could pull off the satire), I’d like to introduce a new feature here at Free Pursuits.

“Ask the Readers” is where I ask for your advice and discussion in the comments on a particular question. Sometimes I’ll create the question, and other times I’ll ask a question on behalf of a reader. If you have something you’d like to ask the Free Pursuits audience, send me an email and I’ll ask it in an upcoming Ask the Readers post (2-4 times per month).

I’ll pick the best answer (best meaning in my subjective estimation it provided the most value to the conversation) and thank the author in the next Ask the Readers segment. (thanks to Skellie for the great segment idea)

So, to kick things off this week, I have been thinking a lot about the different ways someone can make money online. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how someone can best get started earning an income online.

Imagine someone who wants to start working online so that they can eventually become location independent or because they want the flexibility of working online to support a new lifestyle. There are no time requirements, but the goal is to make sure this person doesn’t get frustrated and give up before starting to earn a little.

How would you advise a beginner to get started working online?

I have my own ideas, but I’ll wait to answer in the comments later. There are a broad range of possibilities, from taking a specific course, to jumping into freelancing, starting a blog, affiliate marketing, writing articles for a fee, gambling, trading stocks or currencies and on and on.

I’m looking for more than just a one-word answer here. Share an especially insightful or valuable comment, and you might be crowned winner of this week’s Ask the Readers!

What’s the Best Way For a Beginner to Get Started in Online Business?

Corbett Barr

A weekly curated email of useful links for people interested in lifestyle businesses and independent entrepreneurship.


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  1. Consulting – hands down. I know that’s a totally predictable answer coming from me, but it’s MUCH easier to help someone with an established business implement the things you know about online marketing, make a pile of cash, and kick a few thousand back to you than to wait for your own business to get off the ground before you live that life of personal freedom.

    I’m not saying you should wait to start working on your own projects – they’re essential to your long-term sustainability – but if you want fast cash and freedom, helping a business owner get a few more clients is worth a LOT more money and a LOT faster than building a business from the ground up.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • haha! I swear I didn’t copy your .02 comment. We were both in the moderation que at the same time. That is hilarious.

  2. My advice…start blogging about something you love. While you might not make any money right away, you will learn extremely valuable information on how to post information online in a manner in which people will actually read it and trust your opinion. I believe that to be crucial to any successful online business.

    Why about something you love?

    Because it is fun. If you are trying to start up a blog that requires regular updating on a subject you are not interested in…chances are you are going to give up and be one of those people who say, “it’s not really possible, the select few just got lucky”.

    By keeping it interesting and exciting, you are able to absorb the information that is required to be successful online in an environment that you genuinely want to go to.

    That’s the idea anyway right? Doing what you love for a living? You can always add on boring, highly profitable stuff later if you want to…but I always prefer exciting, enjoyable and profitable. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

    My .02 for what it’s worth.

    • Ed

      i totally agree with you Robb. I personally write about something i couldnt live without technology

  3. I’d first teach them the difference between being a freelancer and an entrepreneur and how one scales and ones doesnt.

    I’d advise leaning toward being a freelancer to begin with, give away advice and time to get a feel for the structure of operating a business, maybe sell a few things on ebay and craigslist. You’ll gain experience and a vibe for the flow of very general business, being a provider of something.

    Then get educated with something, a class, amazon, the internet…whatever suits your learning style.

    Then go for it, create a product or service you, build something and launch it.

    I see people who have no idea how to get started for some reason think they need to incorporate or worry about business names and tax….skip this until you’re actually making money…sucks to spend money, time and effort and realize you’re endeavors aren’t going anywhere.

  4. Well, since it may (and will) take a while to become profitable, they must pick something they are passionate about in order to stick with the project when it looks like it’s not going anywhere. Picking an area they are passionate about will help them stay motivated and will automatically make them atleast a semi-expert in the niche.

    A lot of friends would like to make an income online in order to have money to go back to school. A lot of them are bat s&*t crazy about World of Warcraft, so we’ll use that as an example.

    You decide that you are a WoW fan and that you’ll want to create a niche community site of fans. You’ll first want to start by looking at your competion to:
    a. see if there is competition (i.e. demand in the niche) and….
    b. to see what they are doing wrong
    Find out what they are doing wrong (join the message boards and find out their complaints) and find out what they are not doing at all. Use this to your advantage.

    They’ll want to launch their site and maybe write an ebook (because you know WoW fans can go on and on about the subject) about how to level up quickly or how to do so and so (sorry, I have never played WoW so I’m not quite sure what all you can do or would want to know). Or maybe, instead of an ebook, you decide to sell t-shirts with WoW designs, or maybe laptop skins with WoW inspired designs and slogans, and on and on.

    The fact is, if there is something you are pationate about it will be much easier for you to create something you would want to buy (and thus, others like you would want to buy) than if you decided to start selling a whirlygig that you didn’t care about just because you THINK you can make a lot of money off of it.

    Bottom line: find something your passionate about – in a niche – and create a website around it. Either create an ebook around it, a subscription service ($4.95/month for the best W0W tips, etc.), create content about it on a members only site, or create a good to sell (laptop skins with WoW themes). With passion, perserverance, traffic, time, and a good, professional web design….you will make money online.

  5. Ok, just wanted to say sorry for the long post! I didn’t realize it was that long until I posted it. Also – note to self – I need to proofread before I click submit : )

  6. Best way to start an online business:

    -Write and design a killer eBook and give it away to readers who subscribe to your newsletter. Best way to get loyal readers.

    (If you don’t want to write a free eBook and just a paid eBook, make sure to give a free copy to EVERY blogger who may be interested along with e-junkie affiliate sign up.)

    David Damron
    The Minimalist Path

  7. Affiliate marketing. Go to, pick out a product that looks interesting, buy it, promote it.

    The overhead in this type of business is incredibly low (hosting costs + product cost) and people make a full time income doing it.

    You could create a very basic html review page and drive traffic to it via article marketing and other free methods. That’s the most basic way.

    You could also create a content website (WordPress works great) with a product review. Add articles to it and start seeing some search engine traffic. Build links and promote it all over the place.

    I don’t see blogging as a great way for a beginner. It’s just so much work and very, very few bloggers make money at what they do. It’s more of an advanced method in my mind. But hey, that’s just me :-)

    I love this ask the readers idea.

  8. I like the idea of the post and ask the readers type of thing, but I feel the question is a little too broad. I would highly suggest a more detailed question next time.

    So a beginner, let’s say a good friend of mine, comes up to me and asks what can I do on-line to make money?

    (in reality, depending on how good of a friend the beginner is, this question could take up an entire book, so I’m going super over generalize and keep it short. )

    Well Joe, there are lot’s of things you can do to make money. But it’s not going to be easy. Don’t think because it’s on the Internet that it isn’t going to be any work. But if you work, you can be rewarded. Are you ready to work Joe? Are you ready to make some money?

    I would then go on to explain the different ways of making money on-line and show him the people that are making money. Hopefully by this time he’s got some ideas and a direction he wants to go, because if he doesn’t he should stick to mowing lawns or doing whatever Joe does in the daytime. Once Joe tells me which method most interests him I would direct him from there.

    In the end I would probably have him set up a basic affiliate page with some reviews and feeder pages. Show him adwords and warn him heavily about buying short tail keywords. Probably show him how to get expired domain names and show him some tools of the trade.

    He should make at least one sale a week to keep him motivated.

    • Hey James, thanks for the suggestion. I’ll try to make the question more specific next time. People are doing a great job answering considering how broad this one is.

      I definitely agree on the need to make regular sales to stay motivated. If you told someone who was getting started that all they had to do was bust their ass for 60 hours a week (evenings and weekend of course) for a year and then they’d be raking in a teacher’s level salary, how many would follow through? Sadly, that’s the path for most who try blogging for income.

  9. I like what the others had to say as well.

    these types of questions can really help build a community and maybe give each other ideas on what we can be doing better.

  10. 1. Start off-line.
    -what are your passions? what are you good at? what do you know more about than the average person?
    -let your interests guide you; whether it’s consulting, writing, niche marketing or eBooks, find a subject that you’re knowledgeable and passionate about

    2. Think small.
    -like the professional poker player that masters the .01/.02 tables before he or she moves up to the next level of blinds, think small
    -concentrate on making $1/day, $50/month, etc. (metrics are a great motivational tool)

    3. Learn the buzzwords.
    -what’s the difference between affiliate marketing and niche marketing?
    -what’s SEO?
    -what’s the difference between and

  11. You definitely have to find your passion! How cliche right? It’s what everyone is saying, but hey its true. One you know this if you can collect all the information you need to make it into a step by step, kind of product, then sell it!

    It really is that simple!

  12. This is a fascinating discussion

  13. What is the most popular method for a person who is just starting a web business to get some traffic to the site?

    • Hi Don, great question. The correct answer really depends on the purpose of your business. There are lots of different ways to drive traffic and build an audience. Check out my other blog called Think Traffic for some ideas.

  14. This a great question. How many have asked the same question ourselves when we first started out? Everyone has great suggestions! I think that apart from researching in your area of passion, I would say source people who are already doing something similar, find a mentor or simply pay attention to what others are doing and how they’re achieving success. Ask lots of questions!

  15. Tim

    Hi Corbett,

    Having come from an Entrepreneurial family, my dad owned an “Auction&Estate Liquidation co” and after he was laid off from
    his profession..”Steel Worker” that business supported our family
    fulltime. I took my knowledge to that business and applied it to
    Ebay in which I liquidated excess/outdated inventory for business
    owners. I’ve since gone on to other online businesses but for folks looking to make a transition from corporate life this is a low risk/high
    reward way of getting started.


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Happy ! Thanks for reading.

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