How To Start an Online Business: The Content Creator’s Guide to Success


Every aspiring web entrepreneur wants to know how to start an online business that’s profitable.

But few discuss the 4 requirements for monetary success online.

According to legendary internet marketer, Neil Patel, starting an online business for most entrepreneurs means:

  1. Thinking of an idea.
  2. Creating a product or service.
  3. Trying to sell the product or service.
  4. Filing for bankruptcy. (source)

Neil is right.

Many businesses fail financially.

percentage-of-businesses-that fail

The success rates of businesses after 5 years in existence.

And countless more fail before they even get started.

For instance, I started three businesses that failed before they got started:

I worked with a team of engineers in college to build an app,

I created a mail-order, commissioned painting website for my wife,

And I created a Paleo diet-themed t-shirt line called Primal Shirts.

None of them were bad ideas.

And there’s probably an audience for all of them.

But they all failed because after I created the products/services, I didn’t know how to sell them.

And this is why I believe most entrepreneurs fail:

because they try to start an online business in reverse, like I did.

Like Neil says, most entrepreneurs create a product or service first and then try to sell it.

This certainly can work.

Many entrepreneurs have had success with just this process.

But if you want to start a successful online business, a better strategy is to attract an audience FIRST.

THEN you can sell them a product or service.


So how do you attract an audience?

The most common way is to build a blog of some sort.

It could be a standard, written, WordPress blog, a video blog, or a podcast.

The formula for success works regardless of the type of blog.

Because once you attract a loyal web following through your blog, monetizing your audience is straightforward.

Again, take it from Neil Patel.

When he began his experiment to build a successful online business from scratch that generated $100,000 of profit per month, he didn’t know what product or service he would sell. (source)

Instead, he focused exclusively on building an audience with commercial intent through his blog.

Once he did that, he knew he would have no problem generating revenue from them.

And he was right!

It took him a little more than a year but he was successful in generating $100,000 per month in profit from his brand new nutrition blog.

So in this post, I want to talk about the REAL formula for how to start an online business that’s successful as a content creator.

So how do you do it?

Use the content creator’s formula for success online.



To continue the math analogy, I’m going to talk through what each of these variables look like given a value from 0 to 10.

A zero for any of these variables means you’re way off and a 10 means you’re doing great.


According to the formula, if any of these variables equal zero then the entire equation equals zero and you won’t have monetary success online.

In other words:

If you totally miss the mark for any variable in this formula then you won’t be monetarily successful.

Now let’s talk about the first variable.

1A. Content Quality: The Fuel to Start an Online Business


You’ve probably heard the phrase, “content is king.”

Although cliché, it’s true.

Publishing quality content is a critical component throughout the life of an online business.

For a piece of content to be quality, it must have a target audience and it must add value to that target audience.

Sharing is a good proxy for the quality or value of online content because people tend to share what they find valuable.

So what qualifies as quality content or what sort of content gets the most shares?

It might not be the sort of content that you think.

BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million pieces of viral content to find the recipe for virality.

This is what they found:

how to start an online business with viral content

Need more proof?

Just take a look at 2016’s most shared posts in the realm of marketing:

The most shared piece of content revolves around a poster (rich multimedia).

The second most shared is from YouTube (rich multimedia).

The third most shared is an infographic.

In short:

To make quality content that gets shared, produce long, multi-media rich, high-quality posts.

1B. Content Quality: How to Avoid Publishing Junk

content feedback

If you reverse the content creation recommendations, you find exactly the sort of content you should NOT create.

So AVOID posting information that isn’t helpful, lacks a target audience, or is:

  • short
  • lacking multimedia
  • boring or uninteresting

You might think that everyone knows not to create content like this.

But these qualities characterize the vast majority of information on the web.

That said, it’s still possible to create a successful online business even if you’re not meeting all the “viral” content criteria.

As an example of someone who doesn’t seem to make viral content yet still experiences wild success, check out all-star marketer, Seth Godin who blogs short articles without any multimedia.


They still have a target audience and add a small amount of value.

But in my opinion, the content quality for these posts would receive a low score on our hypothetical content quality scale.

How does Seth get away with this?

He has mastered the other variables of the success equation.

So his blog posts don’t need to be a 10 and can instead be a 1 or 2.


You can still start a successful online business with a low score in any variable of the formula for success by putting more effort into the other parts of the formula.

2A. Content Promotion: Putting Your Content in Front of the Right Audience

content promotion

Content promotion is one of the most under-appreciated aspects of creating a successful online business.

Why do I think this?

Only a tiny fraction of the 2+ million blog posts published daily receive any attention. (source)

And the reason is because most people don’t promote their content.

So how does content promotion work?

It boils down to getting your content in front of your target audience in the places they hang out online.

To do this you could:

  • Answer questions on Quora and cite your blog post/content.
  • Join Facebook groups related to your niche and post your content there.
  • Repurpose your post for Medium, Slideshare, or any other platform that already has an audience.
  • Reference your content on Reddit.
  • Email industry influencers asking them to share and link to your post.

The tools to use and websites you use depend on the audience you want to reach.

But if you find your audience and share with them a post they find valuable, they will link to your content and it will rank in search engines.

Where and how to share your content will change.

But content promotion will always consist of placing your content in front of the people it’s designed to help.

2B. Content Promotion: Avoiding a Dud That Receives No Traffic

how to create an online business - avoid producing dud content

On our theoretical 0 to 10 scale, you earn a zero for content promotion if you do not share what you create.

This sounds absurd but many people fall into this trap.

Several people write books, screenplays, or other creative works, never publish them in any form, and still hope that somehow their work will enable them to start an online business that’s successful.

How is this possible?

It’s not.

At the very least, you must post your content online so that people have the opportunity to gain value from it.

Even if posting your content online is all the promotion you do, it’s better than not posting it at all.

But remember that if you do zero content promotion, you compete with the 2 million posts that are being promoted at least as much as yours.

However, it is still possible to start an online business that’s successful without any content promotion besides publishing to the web.

Take Victor Pride, creator of the blog, Bold and Determined.

He openly admits not promoting his content or using SEO best-practices on his website when he started his blog. (source)

Despite his lack of promotion, he scores well on the other portions of the success equation and has ultimately experienced financial success.

And there are many successful bloggers whose only promotional efforts are simply posting their content online.

In my opinion, their successes are due in large part to luck or to extreme effort in other variables of the success equation.

But it’s important to know it’s still possible to succeed with very little promotion.

3A. Commercial Intent: How to Attract Readers who Buy


If content promotion is the most neglected part of the success equation, producing content that attracts readers with commercial intent, is runner up.

So how do you make sure you produce content that attracts readers who will buy from you?

First, choose a niche that has commercial intent.

This isn’t hard.

Almost every niche contains people willing to buy a good product or service.

But as Patel recommends, you may want to steer clear of the minimalist niche. (source)

Next, you want to write a blog post in which you can naturally and honestly recommend a product or service.

(If you need help setting up a blog, check out my step-by-step guide here!)

As long as this post promotes an affiliate product or service or a product you created, you can make money.

I recommend first proving you can sell someone else’s product or service before you attempt to sell your own.

But don’t take my word for it.

Take Jon Morrow’s, whose site, makes over $30,000 a month in affiliate revenue alone. (source)

Here’s what Jon says about the affiliate marketing business model:

Personally, I think the advantages are so enormous that no beginning blogger should consider any other business model.

That’s an incredible endorsement from a guy who has created a seriously successful online business.

In short:

Choose the right niche, create great content around product or service recommendations, and you can do well.

Brian Dean goes into great detail about how to create content around search terms that show commercial intent within your niche.

You can read all about it in his guide.

3B. Commercial Intent: Avoiding Traffic that Doesn’t Convert

closed wallet

Many people have painstakingly built web content around a concept whose audience is not in a commercial state of mind.

I know I have.

So how do you avoid it?

Let’s talk through an example.

Say you have a great toaster recommendation and an affiliate link that you put in your blog post called “Toasters: How they work.”

Imagine the people who will click on that article headline.

They’re probably kids doing research for their homework or a school project.

There’s a low likelihood this demographic will buy the toaster.

Now imagine you write an article called “Toasters: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide.”

The people who click on that headline are most likely interested buyers.

The experts at Wordstream list several commercial intent keywords to build articles around like: (

  • Branded searches (brand-name goods)
  • Specific products (“iPhone 5c” etc.)
  • Product categories (“summer dresses”, “insect repellant”, “beach accessories” etc.)
  • Affordable
  • Best
  • Cheapest
  • Comparison
  • Review
  • Top



Build content around keywords and ideas that prospective purchasers would read and find valuable.

4A. Production Frequency: Churning Out Content

The final variable of the success equation is production frequency.

On our scale of 1 to 10, a perfect 10 might be John Lee Dumas, the founder of the hit podcast Entrepreneur on Fire.

Entrepreneurs On Fire

He produced a podcast episode every single day for 9 months straight without earning a penny. (source)

And this is why it’s so hard to start a successful online business:

because you often need to work without pay for quite some time before experiencing success.

Most people simply aren’t that patient or willing to work that hard to wait for success.

Before I understood the success equation, production frequency confused me.

On the one hand, you have Brian Dean who has very few blog posts but is highly successful.

And on the other hand, you have Neil Patel who has created thousands of blog posts in his career.

He even recommends new entrepreneurs create a blog post every day to maximize the likelihood of success.


So who is correct?

They both are.

Each one puts different effort into the different variables of the success equation.

Brian puts more effort into content promotion so that he can put less effort into production frequency.

And although Neil definitely promotes his content, he focuses more on producing a lot of high-quality content.

4B. Production Frequency: Avoiding the Path of the Wantrepreneur


It’s easy to earn a zero in the production frequency category.

Simply never publish content.

You might think that no one could possibly fall into the trap of never producing content and still believing that they will start a successful online business.

But many people do (including me at one point in time).

They are usually “wantrepreneurs” or people who talk about becoming an entrepreneur but fail to do anything about it.

How do you avoid the wantrepreneur trap?

Take a cue from Nike and, “Just do it.”

Start your blog today with Bluehost web hosting.*

It’s simple to use, it’s affordable, and it’s how I host this blog.

Plus, you can host multiple websites with a single account to keep costs low when you’re starting.

So start an online business today with a blog and make necessary changes along the way instead of waiting for all your ducks to be in a row.

Because the reality is:

All your ducks will never be in a row.

Conclusion: How to Start an Online Business

content quality X content promotion X commercial intent X production frequency = monetary success online

If you want to start an online business that’s successful, start a blog.

If you want to start a successful blog, follow the success equation.

I truly believe you can extrapolate any web content creator’s success from this equation.

Likewise, any aspiring internet entrepreneur should consider his strengths and construct his success equation accordingly.

Maybe you can churn out high quality content all day every day.

In that case you should focus on that strength but also do what you need with the other 3 variables to ensure success.

Or maybe you know that you simply won’t be able to produce a high volume of content.

That’s OK.

You’ll just need to put more effort into the other variables of success like:

  • Making high quality content
  • Promoting it thoroughly
  • Ensuring your audience has commercial intent

What do you think?

Am I missing an element of the success equation?

Let me know in the comments!

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