Small Business Ideas

It all begins with the idea.

But getting the right idea (and not the wrong one) saves untold punishment, suffering and loss in business.

There’s a misconception that small business ideas are all about they type of business you run.

Like become a cleaner, a plumber or, a caterer – for example.

In fact, when you search Google for, say, “profitable small business ideas” what you get are endless lists of this stuff.

(…plus your fair share of business idea generators too.)

Now, these lists might help you choose the activity of business.

But what they won’t do is teach you how to survive.

Small business ideas for survival

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1-in-5 new business fail within 1 year.

Half fail within 5 years from start-up.

“…8 out of 10 of all small businesses fail.”

Here’s what that looks like:

Chart 3. Survival rates of establishments, by year started and number of years since starting, 1994–2015



And if you look at the tail end of things by 22 years – 80% of all businesses failed.

Things must be where we get the hearsay that 8/10 of all businesses fail.

So, these numbers might not actually be news to us – they’re worth considering in light of your ambition to start-up.

But why?

For some:


For others:

Poor sales. Or, maybe a major supplier went under.

Whatever the weather…

I suppose there’ll be a different reason for each case.

But daring to get general, we could summarise the closures as being due to strategic failure.

They lost the fight.

A mixture of circumstance, timing, market forces, evolving technologies, customer sentiment…

…the external conditions.

A storm hit and the ship went under.

The reality is: storms hit every ship, some time.

But you have to be built of sterner stuff to stand the test.

This is exactly where those small business ideas that I mentioned before come in handy.

Priceless ideas to save ANY small business

So, here it is.

My list of small business ideas that are worth their weight in gold.

Rather than a list of things you can do.

This is a compilation of strategic blows that used in combination will deliver an entrepreneurial knockout for any small business’s victory.

For every small business: handyman to freelance copywriter – these are universal tips we can all benefit from.

(Warning: no fluff, no filler!)

#1 Dead money


Where do you ALWAYS get the cheapest products and services?


When no one else…

a) wants them, or;

b) knows that they’re there.

In other words, when the seller has dead money on his hands.

Here’s an example:

A plumber has a booking fall through last minute. He was scheduled to be on that job for 3 hrs.

At such short notice he’s literally got no alternative income to reach for.

What does he do?

He picks up the phone and calls the top 10 building facilities in that part of the city.

He looks to connect with the facilities managers and offer them a immediate drop in for any jobs they might presently have for him.

The clincher?

He offers his labour for only 33% of the regular cost.

(After all, he can afford to. He’d just be sitting around catching up on paperwork otherwise.)

He calls around – 2 calls in, he gets a job.


Not only has he clawed back some of that ‘dead money’ (by offering his customer a heavily discounted price), but the tradesman has also won himself a new customer contact.

(Sell more, get more leads.)

#2 Reverse engineer

Did you know that craftsmen can time travel?

Yes, they can.

(No word of a lie. )

Here’s how:

A master craftsman and carpenter (specialising in antique restoration) wants to learn what methods his fellows used in the 17th century to join their pieces.

What are his options?

Read books?

Watch a documentary?

Whatever his idea, he’ll have to span a gap of 400 years for first hand experience (which is no mean feat).

But then the answer hits him.

He’ll reverse engineer a piece.

Literally, pull an antique apart joint by joint, sinew by sinew.

Diligently discovering by revelation exactly how it was all done all those generations ago.

Time travel.

#3 Get sales experience

Sales is the  the cutting edge of every business.

Now, I’m biased. From my very 1st temp job I’ve been in customer facing roles.

And I’ll tell you now, there’s nothing more valuable for you as a business owner than to know your customer.


If you don’t know them, how will know what they need in order to sell?

Let me illustrate the point:

“A large software vendor with a specialist product for optometrists is in talks with a multi-store chain.

The decision maker is a lead practitioner with a teaching and training interest.

The vendor sends their number 1 salesman to seal commitment and negotiate a deal.

During the talks, the salesman gets the feeling that the prospect (lead practitioner) is lukewarm at best.

Features. (Nothing.)

Benefits. (Dead silence.)

Nothing seems to draw in the sale.

In reassessing the picture, the salesman asks some questions about the prospects training and learning programmes.

The prospect lights up!

Within minutes the prospect fires up an old legacy system and presents a cache of training images stored on a legacy system.

The salesman laps it up. Like a sponge, he takes everything in.

Then, a turning point arrives. The prospect draws near and says, “Can I request something?”

The salesman replies, “I’m all ears.”

The prospect says,

“My practitioners have all agreed on buying a new system with modern upgraded features.

So we’re all for a new system. However, they’re all the same in my opinion.

The only difference is your company sold us the previous version which as you can see I use for training. I know my way around it and it’s perfect for what I need.

As you now, training is not my main practice, but still VERY important to me.

My question is:

If we bought your new system, would you help me by offering unlimited licenses on the legacy?” 

The salesman’s answer:

“It’s done.”

The prospect:

“Where do I sign.”

A new £500K imaging system sold on offering unlimited licenses for a legacy which they no longer supported.

Beautiful business.

In short, it’s impossible to please your customer unless you really know what drives their decisions.

The best way to find out?

Ask and listen.

The cornerstone of good sales.

#4 Case studies and interview

Theory kills inspiration.

For real learning power you need a real life case.

This is the beauty of case studies.

They are written with only one thing in mind – to teach the reader from someone else’s experience how they might solve their problem.

Their priceless.

You just couldn’t buy time to sit down to have the undivided attention of a the star of a success story.

Interviews particularly are where participants give away some advantageous secrets.

The most valuable are when they talk about their earlier years – the problems they faced and how they overcame them.

Get your notepad ready.

#5 Learn mergers and acquisitions (M&A)

I’ve mentioned before that I used to work for a business broker before going freelance.

It wasn’t for long.

But the lessons learned were invaluable.

The key takeaway though was distinguishing business asset value.

In other words, see that making money in business was playschool compared with building transfer value.


Winning more sales pays you off once (at the point of sale).

Building transfer value pays you off twice (in increase interim profit and again at exit).

For example, a software vendor has £8,000 increase in available internal investment budget.

How should they spend it?

They come up with 2 ideas:

  1. Increase their PPC (pay-per-click) Google advertising budget to increase the sales
  2. Author and publish on their website 200 pages of technical product support and tutorial documentation for users.

What did they choose?

Number 2.


  • Cost saving: better support documentation significantly reduces the customer demand on their support technician resource
  • Promotional dynamite: the 200 pages of unique supportive content with massively increase their search visibility on Google (for free!). More traffic leading to more sales
  • Exit benefits: a software company with excellent support docs will sell for more and sell more easily that one without

Learn M&A an make more profitable strategic decisions.

#6 Don’t stop reading

I’m at my desk all day.

And I’d say 20% of my time is spent reading.

With over 56 billion web pages known to Google search engine, no matter your subject of interest, you won’t be short of reading material.

If I tally the time spent reading 1st class, industry leading:

  • articles
  • posts
  • guides
  • tutorials
  • interviews
  • case studies
  • research studies
  • white papers

…and more over the last 10 years, I’d estimate my total reading & research time to be:

10,950 hours (and counting!)

Let’s compare that to a Ph.D: 5,460 hours.

Or, an MBA: 2,500 – 3000 hours.

Not bad going.

Although no certificate at the end, but bundles of experience.

#7 Get vertical

Many business owners think horizontally.

They see their own business and their competitors only.

This is their entire focus (what they’re up to and what the firm up the road is doing).

“How much are we selling for?…”

“And how much are we selling for?…”

(That kind of thing.)

This leads to a very isolated perspective and denies vision.

Business is vertical.

Like a river, from source to sea – the entire course in between is your domain for adding value.


Sure, they sell you stuff that you need to sell your stuff.

And yes, getting the best price will save you cost on transaction.

But lifting your head for just a moment, “what about your suppliers and what they need?”

Introductions to new prospects.

Why not stage an open evening and invite some of your competitors?

And while you’re at it, get some suppliers to host entertainment 🙂

Your suppliers get to meet new business prospects and hear them out for their current needs.

Your competitors (peers) get to let of steam, compare notes and enjoy being catered for.

And you perhaps might get some referral commissions for new account sign ups resulting from the event.


#8 Be the source

What makes major news networks among the busiest websites in the world?

“Why…news, of course.”

Information that you heard here first. The spark of most of our daily conversations, as quoted directly from the source (said paper).

The same applies to business.

Online, the most quoted snippets of information are statistics or original pieces of research which found fundamental theories.

It’s this theory that gave Wikipedia its wings.

As the place where all the world’s information is summarised into neat articles, it quickly became the de-facto place to get in the know.

Everybody quotes Wikipedia.

But what about your niche.

How easy/hard is it to get your hands on original, reliable data?

Journalists and online publications are CONSTANTLY searching far and wide for source info.

And the best part…”they’ve got to quote where they got it from.”

Instant PR, and free.

#9 Diversify your domain

If I asked you…

“How does an egg farmer make his money?”

What would you say?

“…by selling eggs, perhaps.”

This manner of business is yesterday’s news. Old money. Late.

Today, with the facilitation of information technology aka. IT computing (which helps us communicate widely, cheaply and instantly) we’d be drastically undercutting our profits to think this way.

Here’s what I mean:

An egg farmer is struggling to make ends meet and scratches his head for ideas.

He’s looking for a way to increase his income. 

He asks himself, “How do I sell more eggs?”

He searches online.

This is what he finds in the top articles:

When reading it for advice, the egg farmer takes note who the publisher is and what they do.

What he finds blows his mind.

7 Tips To Help You Sell Your Farm Fresh Eggs For More Money

(Source: Fresh Eggs Daily Blog)

Digging deeper, he finds out who the author is.

As it happens, a fellow egg farmer from Maine, US. By the name of Lisa Steele.

Lisa Steele Farm Fresh Daily Blog

(Source: Fresh Eggs Daily Blog)

To our egg farmer (who also is a multi-generational heir), it makes sense that someone with that much experience would give such advice.

The article itself he our egg farmer found to be good, as far as tips are concerned. Great for beginners. 

But what he was looking for was a way of avoiding a possible business closure. He needed a serious turn around.

Still, encourage by Lisa’s site, he continued to read on.

And as he did…

Slowly (but surely) he got his answer.

Here’s what he found out about Lisa via here website:

Fresh Eggs Daily Blog Navigation

(Source: Fresh Eggs Daily Blog)

  • Topics
  • Recipes
  • Books
  • TV Show
  • Media
  • Shop
  • Sponsors
  • Events

Lisa sells eggs.

But she also sells her professional eggs-pertise (“…I couldn’t resist.”) in as many formats as you could possibly imagine.

Nothing is wasted.

But how does this work out for her?

Is all that time spent making writing cookbooks and promoting other products actually pay off in more eggs sold?

Short answer: no. (Not in more ‘eggs’ sold.)

Longer answer:

Here’s what is happening behind the scenes of Lisa’s online media presence (found in here media pack):

(Source: Fresh Eggs Daily Blog)

Her blog generates some 5.86 million page views a year.

And her social media channels combined make 37 million views per year.

Not to mention 61,129 subscribers on an email list.

In a sentence, Lisa has become every poultry advertiser’s dream.

Through sharing what she does she has generated an audience which represents a huge share of the global poultry keepers’ online marketplace.

The combination of income streams is dizzying:

  • book sales
  • licensing royalties from TV companies
  • online advertisement commissions
  • own product eCommerce sales
  • Sponsorship
  • Speaker fees at events

(…oh, and of course, egg sales.)

Lisa is a successful modern multi-media marketer. Who began as a humble farmer (and still farms).

Now ask yourself, what expertise do you have that you could market?

#10 Always experiment

Smart business people are are fearless scientists.

You observe what works and what doesn’t and you develop theories.

Test them out, see what happens – bottle it up if it’s good. Start again if it’s not.

And most importantly, they never presume.

They might have their strong opinions, but they’ll never jump in with both feet until there’s proof.

This is where the experiments come in:

Meet Pat.

Pat home page

(Source: Smart Passive Income)

Pat, today, is an serially successful online business entrepreneur.

He made his million$ building websites that sell his own products and those of others.

Was Pat’s business success planned?


Pat happened to stumble upon using the internet to sell by complete accident.

The story goes he was studying for professional architectural exams (he used to be an architect) and one day had the idea to use a blog to journal his research and studies.

Everyday he’d write his study notes on the blog and organise them by category.

Day turned to week and week to month…

…Pat’s study journal grew.

Then, something strange happened. Pat’s blog articles suddenly began generating comments.

The commenters? Other fellow professionals studying for the same exams and returning with thanks to Pat for his personal help.

Pat began replying, whilst he continued to write more notes.

Little by little the comments became more and more frequent.

Things got so serious that he sought advise from professional bloggers online for how to turn this interest into an income for his family.

The consensus was: “You should release an eBook.”

That was it.

Pat pulled together the ‘Best of’ highlights from his study notes and authored an eBook with some study templates.

He put up a banner on his website promoting it.

Pat Flynn 1st eBook Sales Income Breakdown

(Source: Green Exam Academy)

He released it in the morning on his way to work.

And by 8:40am – Pat had earned his first sale.

In fact, that day, he sold 10 eBooks. 

October 2, 2008 sales

(Source: Smart Passive Income)

Total sale amount, $199.90

At that rate of sales if Pat continued his success daily, he’d have earnings of $72,963.50 a year.

Suffice to say, that would beat his day job salary.

From that day onwards, Pat Flynn never looked back.

Bit by bit, Pat began experimenting with this web blog – taking different courses of action to achieve growth.

He also began other project which he determined from the start to earn money.

Some worked. Many failed. 

(Source: Smart Passive Income)

So, it seems Pat learned a valuable lesson:

“Always experiment.”

#11 Bootstrap + D.I.Y

Money gets things done.

But what should you get done?

This is the question in business.

People starting out often think the value is in having enough money to run your dream business.

But this is actually a sure way to lose money.

Start small.

Use only what you have in your hand and overcome your obstacles with wit.

Make mistakes. Get successes. Learn how to change the odds in your favour by manning all the stations, before hiring help.

Know what it’s like to wear the hat of every function in your business.

Accounting. Bookkeeping. Legal. Marketing…etc.

Get studied. Get practised. Start up all on your own steam. And then plan how you might scale it to your advantage with a little help here and there.

But having 1st hand experience of the role, you’ll be in an authoritative and informed position to instruct.

Plus, the lessons you learned from the bottom coming up will serve you well at the top.

Bootstrap + D.I.Y

#12 Your first goal is revenue

For many, passion drives their interest in starting a business.

But I’ve learned (the hard way) to never fall into the trap of relying on this to earn you a living.

Business can be punishing.

And also a strict teacher.

(Tough love.)

But the lessons are life long and priceless.

One such lesson I learned is to make your first goal to make revenue.

When starting out, ask yourself:

“What is my shortest route to making revenue”?

While I’m not advocating the ‘get rich quick’ obsession.

I am all for validating new business ideas.

Hear me out:

Many of my business ideas in my earlier days of start up were based on ‘seeing a gap in the market’ to serve an audience with value.

My theories all began this way.

But often I found in practice that although an audience did exist and enjoy reading my promotional literature, I didn’t (couldn’t) sell.

Revenue was always a principal goal, but having the right chemistry with marketing to drive home an income was missing.

No matter how hard I tried, the tank was always empty.

In such venture, time and effort (blood sweat and tears) were lost and irrecoverable.

This I found quite painful to accept.

(Especially at times personally when every penny and minute was costly.)

It has only been after 10 years of venturing start-up projects that I learned this:

The MOST important indicator and acid test for any new business idea is time to first sale.


The quicker you begin selling:

  • the greater confidence you have
  • your project begins to pay for itself
  • you validate that it’s feasible

Taking Pat Flynn as the example from the previous chapter in this article, he made his first sale in day one.

In fact, he made his first 10 sales in day one.

That was all the proof he needed to get FULL-TIME serious about his PART-TIME side project.

#13 Never re-invent – just sell

I’d have to say that I’ve come up with some great small business ideas over the years (…or at least I think so).

Though, you can never make use of them all.

Most of them new inventions – products or services that I’m certain would revolutionise the way we do business.

But in reality, a head up in the clouds doesn’t put food on the table.

A dreamer doesn’t pay his bills.

That said, there are some inventions which I have managed to bring to fruit.

  • software
  • Pplanning documents
  • ebooks etc…

And whilst I was certain that they were bound to succeed because there was nothing quite like them out there.

In hindsight, how naive I was.

Breaking new products (or services) is a MAJOR drain.

So, much hidden cost is involved in the R&D research and development process.

And then of course there is maintenance and improvement.

By the time you get around to launching and coming out of Beta – you have accumulated so much sunk capital cost.

Add that the financial pressure at launch to recoup costs.

And what should have been an enjoyable process of creativity and reward, has turned into an experience that you’d rather forget.

The solution?


Why not save yourself the steep start-up costs related to innovation & take on an existing product.

Become a dealer, distributor or channel partner for another proven business.

They take on all the expense of launching and supporting a market leading product or service.

Your job is to attract an audience for what they do. Make the introduction and earn commission.

They have something you don’t have.

And you have something they want more of.

The meeting in the middle could make for a profitable partnership.

You don’t have to spend a career pitching outsourced offerings, but see it as training wheels for your sharpening your commercial senses…

…before you try it alone.

#14 Negotiate a no-brainer

Negotiation is one of the most fiercely debated and coveted topic in business.

I guess because it’s the cutting edge of the deal, where everything comes together beautifully.

(Or, so it should.)

Yet equally, negotiation is also hugely misunderstood.

The word on the street is, it’s about winning a competition against the will of your counterpart.

But experience will teach that it’s about getting on-side and offering a deal that:

  • makes perfect sense
  • presents value in a way that’ll win them over and gladly give you the sale

How’s it done?

By showing them that you:

  1. know their business
  2. understand their position
  3. have skill in what you are doing
  4. are willing to offer them value that makes sense for them, in exchange for value in return
  5. prepared, measured and came with the intention of leaving with a deal done

In negotiations, obstacles derail the whole show.

And there are always obstacles.

(Items which prevent the agreement, progress or completion of a potential deal.)

Obstacles can only be removed if both parties are in agreement.

Negotiation is about arriving at a desired destination together.

The route is planned and contingencies made.

Progress begin when talks open.

Territories and terrain present challenges and when things become too entrenched – we call this an obstacle.

And here’s how you move them:

The success of negotiation is in reading the terrain and presenting a feasible alternative route.

It’s not always about offering more or becoming forceful.

But actually about skilfully using what you do have to wrestle that point of contact into submission.

When this happens, both parties agree that the obstacle is no longer a problem (moving one step closer to the end).

When proposed alternatives for tackling obstacles require no thought (no brainers) because they’re THAT attractive, this speeds up the approach to sealing the deal.

No brainers take some skill designing.

But ‘no brainers’ come about as a result of truly understanding your counterpart’s position and then helping them re-imagine the possibilities.

The key being though that you use nothing but well grounded and founded reasoning.

Do this and your negotiations become no brainers.

#15 Constantly connect the dots

Much like the internet, business runs on connections.

(And I don’t necessarily mean networking either.)

What I mean is ‘seeing how something relates to another thing’.

Seeing this, helps you understand value.

Take a popular open-source software, like WordPress CMS, for example.

Here are some dots:

  1. According to the 20th edition of the State of the Developer Nation report, there were 24.3 million active software developers worldwide at the beginning of 2021, including 13 million software professionals. (Source: Future-Processing)
  2. Some 4 million people quit their jobs in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a figure that represents 2.7 percent of the workforce. And there are more jobs open than ever before. (Source: Vox)
  3. Nearly one-third of businesses (32%) that don’t use a digital marketing agency and/or a freelancer/consultant plan to outsource their digital marketing efforts in the next year. (Source: The Manifest)

And what do you get?

A burgeoning online entrepreneurial economy.

“But wait, what’s the framework?”

Just think open-source software. And WordPress, of all the open source web technologies, takes the biscuit. 

If you’re not already familiar, open source software is software which is:

  • free
  • made with liberty to use, extend and re-package as much as you would like

In simple terms, it’s like a blank canvass.

When you paint your masterpiece on top, the manufacturer hold no rights to the piece.

(They gave you the canvass and let go the moment you took possession.)

Open source software is much the same.

A free platform upon which to build – well, whatever you’d like!

“But what do the original developers get out of it (if they gave away their work for free)?”

If their work becomes popular.

Those originating masterminds actually acquire a proven economy, rather than a user base.

And the best part is – it was entirely, financially and operationally driven by the users.

But still…where do they make money?



(Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and founder of WordPress)

In an interview here with Brian Gardner, founder of StudioPress – a WordPress theme development company, Matt Mullenweg discusses Automattic’s role within the WordPress economy:

Matt Mullenweg: The things that Automattic sells — we have some service plug-ins available generally through Jetpack, but you can get VaultPress or Akismet, which are backup and security services and anti-spam services. These are essentially lightweight plug-ins. 

We also have plug-ins largely that came in through the WooThemes acquisition, including WooCommerce — there’s over 300 extensions for WooCommerce — and smaller things like WordPress Job Manager or Sensei that are essentially like little miniature applications that you can put on top of WordPress that transform it.” (Source: StudioPress)

And again.

Writing one of his blogs called, Matt reveals the humble beginnings of WordPress and Automattic:

“I’m originally from Houston, Texas. In 2003, web developer Mike Little and I, along with a few other online friends, developed a web publishing tool called WordPress. It quickly became popular, but we had no inkling that it could ever be a revenue-generating project. We just wanted to make better publishing tools so that non-engineers could express themselves online with their own blogs.”

“We developed a business model in those early days that generated enough money to keep us working on making steady improvements to the product. We sold add-ons and custom design options, domain names, and the like. We developed partnerships with hosting companies that would pay us for new customers whose WordPress blogs they’d then host. Today’s WordPress monetization strategies aren’t all that different from what we were doing back then. A few of us were working on WordPress full time at that point, which made us feel like we had achieved the dream.”


As you can see, even some of the biggest private companies out there today took some time to connect the dots.

And with patience, they stumbled upon something better than the traditional path.

A thriving self-generating economy of innovation (that just so happens to be VERY rewarding too).

#16 Know what problem you are solving

The problem solved is where your business becomes worthy.

It’s the thing that makes sense.

It’s where customers willingly hand over the investment and move forward.

You get traction with it.

Here’s a quick example:

A media publishing company advertises freelance vacancies it has for an upcoming project.

Funding is in. They just need writers.

They publish their ads and receive applicants.

On assessment, the general quality of applicant is poor.

Was there a general shortage of talent?

Was it their company profile?

Was it remuneration?

The hiring manager did what most would do in this boat: ask for help.

He forwarded the job description to an editor friend of his, asking an opinion.

The feedback was eye-opening.

He read the response,

“Hey Jack, Just got your message. All in, not a bad offer: the rate is super competitive, the payment terms although delayed are solid.

But there’s one massive failing in the document.

You don’t say how much work there is in the pipeline.

You see, freelance writers are typically stay-at-home spouses with inconsistent cash flow.

Indicating the volume and velocity of work available in the pipeline will be reassuring for those wanting better predictability with income.”

Problem solved.

#17 Never tie in nor sell your time

You might have heard this many times over:

“Your most valuable asset is your time.”

And why?

Because you can’t physically be in two places at once, or do two things at the same time.

The way of life is that doing things come at the expense of not doing others.

This is known as opportunity cost.

(And there’s plenty of opportunity cost in selling your time to be somewhere and do something – like employment.)

The idea of selling your time like as in employment is one model of generating income.

But as many who leave the 9-5 culture will tell, employment can be a punishing ride.

Being pulled from pillar to post for 40 hours a day isn’t that fulfilling.

The commitment of employment literally puts a price on your head.

And once in, you’re stuck

Why that’s bad is because life is variable.

Personal circumstances (for one reason, or another) can change suddenly, leaving you with no choice but to make very radical changes.

Perhaps a change of location.

Or, a change of availability.

Where your daily bread is on the line, commitment to a set routine and daily pattern of movement can become incompatible.


Reversing out of such an engagement can be painful.

The better way is: never tie in, or sell your time.

Take a look at this as an illustration:

“Paid newsletters are rapidly gaining popularity among online entrepreneurs.

Newsletter authors like Ben Thompson of ‘Stratechery’ fame have raised a paid subscription income of $200,000 per annum from their independent writing gig.

Whilst that sounds great to most. What you don’t see is that writers like Ben are under pressure to deliver daily.

They’re on a treadmill. And they are committed in advance with paid up monies for services yet fulfilled. They MUST write…NOW.

What happens if you get married?

Have children?

Want a change of career?

There are so many messy subscription arrangements to dissolve and reimburse.

Not to mention how uncomfortable it would be announce stepping away, or selling up to thousands who had gotten used to hearing from you EVERY day.

Take the example of having a paid newsletter distributing for sale listings to a hungry niche audience.

You have the idea of running a daily paid newsletter.

The listings you source come in a-plenty every day. So no shortage there. And every other outlet online is SLOW moving.

You figure you’re going to beat the competition by being the pulse. Daily.

Before charging for it, you trial the daily service.

It takes 3 hrs to prepare the listings and compile them in an email. 

And day to day you find it a breeze. 

Then, you hit a snag. An emergency family commitment meant you could run it one day. You felt guilty and sent out an apology.

Also, after about a month, you decided to take on more freelance work to balance out your income.

This put a squeeze on your availability to run the newsletter. 

You start missing the odd day here and there. 

Soon enough, you feel it’s time for a re-think. 

You weight things up. 

Daily totally smashes the competition.

But then again, is a reliable daily service sustainable?

In all honest, going by recent weeks – the answer is, “no”.

So what to do? Lose a USP and go weekly, perhaps? Or, stick with daily and hope for the best?

Then, it hits you.

Why sell your time?

Why not charge for latest listing alerts – as they happen…rather than according to a fixed time frame?

This way you’re free to post as frequently as you like. But don’t have the guilt if you miss a day, or two.


#18 Always sell

I have a favourite marketing blog out there.

It’s called

It’s run by a marketing expert called Brian Dean.

His speciality is search engine marketing with deep interest in backlink acquisition.

In case you don’t yet know, backlinks are when another website links to your website on one of their pages.

Why this is of particular importance in online marketing is that it influences your ranking in the search engines.

Google, particularly, will advance your website up its listings because of backlinks.

Anyway, that’s beside the point.

I read Brian’s blog for one reason.

To reverse engineer how he sells online.

Off the back of his blog he runs a 6-figure (per annum) online marketing training course.

So, you might say he’s a successful online entrepreneur.

His blog is famously popular amongst marketing professionals and his newsletter too.

Whilst his tips on search engine marketing are undoubtedly good.

What I find absolutely outstanding is his method of selling through his web content (…without overtly selling).

He’s a pro at it.

Here’s a classic example:

Backlinko Video Marketing Definitive Guide

It’s a guide to video marketing the right way…the way to getting results.

To fill you in a little, Brian has a heavy hitting YouTube training course called ‘First Page Videos’.

First Page Videos Brian Dean YouTube

It’s hugely popular.

But you won’t see him openly promote it on his blog.

In fact, many of his blog reader ask Brian how he makes money because it’s complete absent of ads of any kind.

So, you might ask – “How does he sell his course then?”

Simply, he sells the course indirectly via a newsletter.

People love the blog.

The sign up for the newsletter.

He sells courses.

People buy in their thousands.

His flagship SEO course, for example, has sold over 4,000+ times over.

You might say he’s got a winning combo sales routine.

The anchor for the whole set-up however is his blog.

Articles like the one I mentioned above, “Video Marketing: The Definitive Guide” are among some of the MOST eagerly anticipated and diligently read article industry wide. And that’s globally.

Take another look at the screen shot, it reads 2059 social media shares to date.

But as for me, the most astonishing aspect of Brian’s posts is his sales pitch.

In a word, it’s slick.

Brian SELLS. It’s really skillful stuff when you examine it.

Check out what I mean:

In Brian’s Video Marketing: The Definitive Guide his focus is delivering objective, actionable tips for readers to follow and succeed today with.

The convincing part is he shares only tips that he has used and succeeded with himself.

Mind you, for all this, there are no adverts for his video marketing course at all within the post.

Some readers even ask him in the comments if he runs courses:

Does Brian Dean of Backlinko Do Video SEO Courses_

But to the trained eye, his post is actually one BIG advert for his courses.

In fact, in counting the number of references to his services Brian has interwoven within his guide narrative, I counted no less than:


If these were adverts his page would be considered SPAM.

It would be read nor would it rank.

But seamlessly integrated within his guide material, these anecdotal/conversational sketches are irresistible entrees into what he does and serve to stir up buyer intrigue in the reader.

Here’s an example:

How Video Helped My Business Grow

Seems things didn’t start out too good from Brian at his 1st video marketing attempts.

But he stuck with it and now Brian is a passed master in the YouTube video ranking game too.

Brian Dean Got Much Better At Video Marketing

This zero to hero outtake of his is a perfect lead into his video marketing course and the success he has enjoyed through running it.

Selmore Brian Dean Cites Video As Reason For Course Sign Ups

Guaranteed, if you were looking for a video marketing course to take online, Brian Dean’s blog although not at all salesy, would have you SOLD.

#19 Simplify & focus

Complications lead to indecision.

And in a sales funnel, distractions kill opportunity.

From experience, making sales simple can revolutionise your conversion rate.

One of the biggest blogs online in the internet marketing and web development space sells because its content is uncomplicated.

Simple and focused (to say it plain).



They know what their lane is.

They know it works.

And don’t change from it.

Because of this they SELL more than most and of course their lead gen is also superior.



This is the world’s #1 WordPress resource used by newbies and experts alike.

It’s become the user-friendly user manual for anyone involved in the software.

And by current statistics (2002) which show WordPress powers “43.2% of all websites” we can only image the size of market that WP Beginner has gathered up.

Volume of web page:

WP Beginner is prolific. Founded by Sayed Balkhi (online entrepreneur – this project was his first, which he started single-handed), WP Beginner has been skilfully driven into pole position in a competitive marketplace by one means alone…

…quality content AND LOTS OF IT.

Today, after 13 years of running, Sayed and his team of web professionals have published a grand total of 4,360 WordPress tutorials.

Each tutorial tackles a particular problem that users of the software will face. It’s like a free support and training hub.


How does that number of web pages relate to the overall search traffic generated via Google (and other search engines:?

WPBeginner Monthly Organic Search Traffic 2022

That’s 2.3 million web visits PER MONTH

(…27.6 million visits a year.)



According to Sayed himself, “With everything combined, WPBeginner blog has helped build a strong 8-figure annual business.”

(That’s in the tens of millions per year. You could say his web traffic figures and his sales revenue are identical. i.e. for every one visit to his website, Sayed banks a dollar.)


WP Beginner cuts to the chase.

They SELL.

What exactly?

  1. their own propriatary WordPress compatible products
  2. AND everyone elses

From being a unheard of solo blogger 13 years ago, Sayed has positioned his business as being the (un)official shop window for the entire WordPress economy.

(Recent value estimates weigh the WordPress ecosystem as being in the region of  $596.7 billion in 2020.)


The WP Beginner website is jam-packed but super simple in approach.

Basically each post is a “How to…in WordPress” tutorial on some aspect of using the software.

WordPress is CMS. And the most user-friendly and yet technically able on out there. It’s proven to drive results for big and small.

The US President’s office us it.

Your local fast-food takeway use it.

It’s become the universal tool and synonymous for building a website.

Yet, as WordPress is open source, unless you are a developer, you’ll find it impossible to interpret the official technical documentation called the WordPress Codex.

In other words, building a WordPress website if you’re not a tech-head can be a real pain.

You hit so many roadblocks from start to finish. Quite a punishing ride – without a guide to help you.

And that is exactly where WP Beginner come it.

They translate and make EASY WordPress web building, maintenance and improvement.

Here’s an example post:

WPBeginner How To Display Related Posts In WordPress

Quite plain looking, right? (Especially for the size of business we just discussed).

Actually, the appearance of this blog hasn’t changed since the founder began blogging 13 years ago.

(A simple case of “…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”)

Let’s take a closer look at what we see:

First off, do you see that little green ‘monster’ looking image to the right (in the screenshot above)?

That’s one of Sayed Balkhi’s proprietary plugins and THE market leading way of converting more website visitors into customers.

It’s called OptinMonster.

It’s currently being used by 1,213,437 websites. (All sales driven directly and indirectly by the success of WP Beginner).

Next, scrolling down the article we see…

WPBeginner How To Display Related Posts In WordPress Featured Image

Straight to the point.

They ask the question: “Do you want to show related articles on your WordPress website?”

Bearing in mind the only way someone could have found this article online is to ask that EXACT question.

By confirming the problem in the first few lines, WP Beginner opens the door to let the visitor in out of the cold.

A great sales technique.

(Plus, the full width featured image with ‘Display related posts in WordPress’ – gives the impression that this is going to be simple.)

*Oh…and by the way, notice the ads to the right saying, “How To Start A Blog (Step by Step)” and “The Ultimate WordPress Toolkit”?

They both lead you to resources that help you learn the WordPress basics, BUT also list out almost every product Sayed Balkhi sells or recommends for commission.

The tutorial starts by challenging you on why you should display related posts and Sayed again gets to the crux early by start off,

“We believe that showing the most popular posts instead of related posts lead to higher clicks and user engagement.” i.e. you’ll make more sales and revenue

No-brainer really.

Next, the article prepares you to read 2 ways around the problem:

  1. Quick, simple and with additional benefit$ – but will cost you (recommended).
  2. Slower, clunkier and will take more grunt effort on your behalf – minus those benefit$.

And you guessed it…

WPBeginner How To Display Related Posts In WordPress Chapter 1

The recommended and #1 method for tackling the problem, is backed by one of Sayed’s own products: MonsterInsights.

Online sales 101 by one of the best.

#20 Don’t be nice

Finally, my parting small business idea is don’t be nice.

Whilst it’s lovely to help people, it’s got to be sustainable.

You’ve got to be real and count the cost of what it will take and then devise a PROFITABLE way to fulfil the promise.

What ever it is you do in business, a profit first attitude will always help you protect your position and grow.

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