Hello, my name is James Jackson. I have owned and operated several one-man online businesses. My flagship product is DotComBuildr which allows anyone to build and create an unlimited number of websites.
Users can choose from one of over 300 website themes, and the online service includes hosting for the websites as well. The website building platform was just launched so as of right now it has $0 in revenue.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
Honestly, I started getting into entrepreneurship when I was about 8 years old. I saw an offer in a comic book about earning money selling greeting cards and since that day I was hooked. As I got older I would pick up and read anything I could get my hands on about business, marketing, making money, etc.
Eventually, I got into online publishing. Creating ebooks, video and audio products for entrepreneurs as well as software applications.
Even if it’s just an idea, in the beginning, you’ll be working on something and not just thinking about it.
In order to validate my product ideas, I would visit forums and other online groups where business owners would discuss issues, problems, or needs they had in their own businesses. It becomes much easier to build a successful product that way especially if a particular problem or need is being talked about by several different people. At that point, I would join the discussion or group myself and further pinpoint other problem areas that could be solved with a well laid out “how-to guide” that I could produce in written, audio or video format.
After doing this process for about a year and a half, I moved into creating software applications by hiring freelance developers at sites such as Freelancer.com. I quickly discovered that software products had a much higher “perceived value.” Meaning I could sell those particular products for more money. Where I might be able to sell a detailed guide on building a website for $10 - $20, I can sell a service such as DotComBuildr for $17-$20 or more per month. Especially since the user gets to create an unlimited number of websites under a single account.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
In order to get to where I am today, I simply kept at it. I never gave up. Even when I was making no money at all. I still took the time to learn the process of setting up marketing funnels, writing web copy/sales letters, graphic design, etc. When I got started I had no money. In fact, I had to save up $100 to purchase my first computer from a pawn shop in 2001 so I could get set up with an AOL internet account.
From that point forward it took me about 5 years to make my first dollar online. I would spend most of my free time and late nights working on my online business. Some of my friends thought I was nuts and even told me to my face that I would fail, and they were 100% correct and at the same time 100% wrong.
I had to fail in order to figure out what worked. You could say I failed my way to success. I would try different marketing strategies one after the other and different types of online business from MLM, to direct marketing, to affiliate marketing. In the end, I finally saw success when I wrote my first 20-page ebook. It was highly specialized and I received really good reviews on it from other small online publishers.
From there I began setting up partnerships (or my own affiliate program) where I would approach other business owners that had email lists and customer databases filled with the types of people who would be interested in my products. Instead of paying for the advertising upfront, I would offer them a 50/50 split of the profits generated if they promote the product by sending an email about my product(s) to their email lists/customers. The only thing I risked losing was the time it took to create the product, and, sales letter style website that sold the product, typically 30 to 90 days. The only thing my affiliate partners risked was sending an email to their list (which I wrote for them as well).
I end up making thousands of dollars at a time this way without having to spend much upfront in advertising costs.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Building a good product/service offering was the initial phase and now launching into phase two - getting customers.
Today, I still hold a day job since I am relaunching my business gradually. As far as marketing and getting customers to go, everything is on course. The future looks great. The do-it-yourself web design market is at 24 billion per year and grows at 4.4% annually so there is a lot of room to profit in this business niche.
In the short term, we are looking to get our first 1000 paying members by reaching out to potential affiliates and joint venture partners who promote the product to their own base of current and past customers related to the small business/local business target market.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Yes, I have learned a lot through starting the business I am in now and other businesses I have launched in the past. The biggest mistake I would say I made initially was being afraid to fail. It’s the only way to figure out what will work for my (your) particular business model. The key is to not risk a lot of resources i.e. time or money in the process. For example, I would have spent more on advertising to test market new products. You can spend $50 to $200 depending on the marketplace and get some solid sales numbers to start. If the product or idea is a dud at least you will know.
But one way to make sure you are on the right path as far as having a winning product goes is either create or get the rights to sell a type of product or service that is already selling well then put a unique spin on it to differentiate your offer from your competition.
One of the biggest keys to success is NEVER, EVER take advice or listen to anyone who has not had success or experience in the areas of business (or life in general) that you want to be successful in. Many times, unfortunately, these are our own friends and family. They will tell you a million reasons why you will fail or can’t have the success you are aiming for. Or, they will try to tell you what you should do and how to run your business. Just let them talk. Don’t get upset or try to convince them, that’s futile. But again NEVER, EVER take their advice. I mean you wouldn’t take medical advice from your baker, would you?
Instead, find people online (successful people) and follow their blogs, youtube, twitter, LinkedIn profiles, etc. You will learn much more this way and you will probably also find a large number of people in these groups you can share ideas with as well.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I try to keep things really simple for myself and I prefer tools that can help me sell faster and easier. Right now I use an online business platform tool called Delavo (a strange name I know) by John Delavera.
There are so many different tools in one from setting up online stores, payments processors, setting up a joint venture or affiliate partnerships, giving coupon codes, custom order forms, integrating with WordPress, delivering digital download products automatically, monthly recurring memberships, selling physical products, shipping and customers can access purchase history, helpdesk, and so much more that I still don’t know all the different tools I can use after 12 years of using the platform.
It’s really an out of this world marketing platform that allows you to start out small and expand your business to any level. It’s the one tool I will never give up
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Honestly, I don’t do a lot of reading. After my initial foray into learning how to set up a sales website and product delivery systems, along with writing advertising that generates sales I just kept developing new products and learning from my successes and mistakes.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Just get started! But be smart about it. It’s ridiculously low cost to get a website these days. So I would say start there. This is going to sound totally backward but…
Build the website you want to have even if you don’t have the products developed or sourced yet. You can get or source the product while fleshing out your website. This is probably one of the easiest ways to stay motivated because you will at least have something that YOU ARE DEVELOPING. Even if it’s just an idea, in the beginning, you’ll be working on something and not just thinking about it.
Where can we go to learn more?
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