Apple’s ‘sexist’ credit card investigated by US regulator

A US financial regulator has opened an investigation into claims Apple’s credit card offered different credit limits for men and women.

It follows complaints – including from Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak – that algorithms used to set limits might be inherently biased against women.

New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) has contacted Goldman Sachs, which runs the Apple Card.

Any discrimination, intentional or not, “violates New York law”, the DFS said.

The Bloomberg news agency reported on Saturday that tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson had complained that the Apple Card gave him 20 times the credit limit that his wife got.

In a tweet, Mr Hansson said the disparity was despite his wife having a better credit score.

Later, Mr Wozniak, who founded Apple with Steve Jobs, tweeted that the same thing happened to him and his wife despite their having no separate bank accounts or separate assets.

 

Banks and other lenders are increasingly using machine-learning technology to cut costs and boost loan applications.

‘Legal violation’

But Mr Hansson, creator of the programming tool Ruby on Rails, said it highlights how algorithms, not just people, can discriminate.

US healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group is being investigated over claims an algorithm favoured white patients over black patients.

Mr Hansson said in a tweet: “Apple Card is a sexist program. It does not matter what the intent of individual Apple reps are, it matters what THE ALGORITHM they’ve placed their complete faith in does. And what it does is discriminate.”

He said that as soon as he raised the issue his wife’s credit limit was increased.

The DFS said in a statement that it “will be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex”.

“Any algorithm that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class violates New York law.”

The BBC has contacted Goldman Sachs for comment.

On Saturday, the investment bank told Bloomberg: “Our credit decisions are based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law.”

The Apple Card, launched in August, is Goldman’s first credit card. The Wall Street investment bank has been offering more products to consumers, including personal loans and savings accounts through its Marcus online bank.

The iPhone maker markets Apple Card on its website as a “new kind of credit card, created by Apple, not a bank”.

Affiliate Marketing in 2019: What It Is and How You Can Get Started

Wake up at an ungodly hour. Drive to the office through total gridlock, streets jammed with other half-asleep commuters. Slog through email after mind-numbing email until the sweet release at five o’clock.

Sound terrible?

What if, instead of dealing with the monotony and stupor of the rat race to earn a few bucks, you could make money at any time, from anywhere — even while you sleep?

That’s the concept behind affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is a popular tactic to drive sales and generate significant online revenue. Extremely beneficial to both brands and affiliate marketers, the new push towards less traditional marketing tactics has paid off. In fact:

  • 81% of brands and 84% of publishers leverage the power of affiliate marketing, a statistic that will continue to increase as affiliate marketing spending increases every year in the United States.
  • There is a 10.1% increase in affiliate marketing spending in the United States each year, meaning that by 2020, that number will reach $6.8 billion.
  • In 2018, content marketing costs were gauged to be 62% of traditional marketing schemes while simultaneously generating three times the leads of traditional methods. In fact, 16% of all orders made online can be attributed to the impact of affiliate marketing.
  • In March of 2017, Amazon’s affiliate structure changed, offering rates of 1-10% of product revenue for creators, providing the opportunity for affiliates to dramatically increase their passive income based on the vertical they’re selling on.
  • The affiliate marketing of Jason Stone, otherwise known as Millionaire Mentor, was responsible for as much as $7 million in retailer sales just in the months of June and July in 2017.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the process by which an affiliate earns a commission for marketing another person’s or company’s products. The affiliate simply searches for a product they enjoy, then promotes that product and earns a piece of the profit from each sale they make. The sales are tracked via affiliate links from one website to another.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Because affiliate marketing works by spreading the responsibilities of product marketing and creation across parties, it manages to leverage the abilities of a variety of individuals for a more effective marketing strategy while providing contributors with a share of the profit. To make this work, three different parties must be involved:

  1. Seller and product creators.
  2. The affiliate or advertiser.
  3. The consumer.

Let’s delve into the complex relationship these three parties share to ensure affiliate marketing is a success.

1. Seller and product creators.

The seller, whether a solo entrepreneur or large enterprise, is a vendor, merchant, product creator, or retailer with a product to market. The product can be a physical object, like household goods, or a service, like makeup tutorials. Also known as the brand, the seller does not need to be actively involved in the marketing, but they may also be the advertiser and profit from the revenue sharing associated with affiliate marketing.

2. The affiliate or publisher.

Also known as a publisher, the affiliate can be either an individual or a company that markets the seller’s product in an appealing way to potential consumers. In other words, the affiliate promotes the product to persuade consumers that it is valuable or beneficial to them and convince them to purchase the product. If the consumer does end up buying the product, the affiliate receives a portion of the revenue made.

Affiliates often have a very specific audience to whom they market, generally adhering to that audience’s interests. This creates a defined niche or personal brand that helps the affiliate attract consumers who will be most likely to act on the promotion.

3. The consumer.

Whether the consumer knows it or not, they (and their purchases) are the drivers of affiliate marketing. Affiliates share these products with them on social media, blogs, and websites.

When consumers buy the product, the seller and the affiliate share the profits. Sometimes the affiliate will choose to be upfront with the consumer by disclosing that they are receiving commission for the sales they make. Other times the consumer may be completely oblivious to the affiliate marketing infrastructure behind their purchase.

Either way, they will rarely pay more for the product purchased through affiliate marketing; the affiliate’s share of the profit is included in the retail price. The consumer will complete the purchase process and receive the product as normal, unaffected by the affiliate marketing system in which they are a significant part.

How Do Affiliate Marketers Get Paid?

A quick and inexpensive method of making money without the hassle of actually selling a product, affiliate marketing has an undeniable draw for those looking to increase their income online. But how does an affiliate get paid after linking the seller to the consumer? The answer is complicated. The consumer doesn’t always need to buy the product for the affiliate to get a kickback. Depending on the program, the affiliate’s contribution to the seller’s sales will be measured differently. The affiliate may get paid in various ways:

1. Pay per sale.

This is the standard affiliate marketing structure. In this program, the merchant pays the affiliate a percentage of the sale price of the product after the consumer purchases the product as a result of the affiliate’s marketing strategies. In other words, the affiliate must actually get the investor to invest in the product before they are compensated.

2. Pay per lead.

A more complex system, pay per lead affiliate programs compensates the affiliate based on the conversion of leads. The affiliate must persuade the consumer to visit the merchant’s website and complete the desired action — whether it’s filling out a contact form, signing up for a trial of a product, subscribing to a newsletter, or downloading software or files.

3. Pay per click.

This program focuses on incentivizing the affiliate to redirect consumers from their marketing platform to the merchant’s website. This means the affiliate must engage the consumer to the extent that they will move from the affiliate’s site to the merchant’s site. The affiliate is paid based on the increase in web traffic.

Why Be an Affiliate Marketer?

What are the reasons to become an affiliate marketer?

1. Passive income.

While any “regular” job requires you to be at work to make money, affiliate marketing offers you the ability to make money while you sleep. By investing an initial amount of time into a campaign, you will see continuous returns on that time as consumers purchase the product over the following days and weeks. You receive money for your work long after you’ve finished it. Even when you’re not in front of your computer, your marketing skills will be earning you a steady flow of income.

2. No customer support.

Individual sellers and companies offering products or services have to deal with their consumers and ensure they are satisfied with what they have purchased. Thanks to the affiliate marketing structure, you’ll never have to be concerned with customer support or customer satisfaction. The entire job of the affiliate marketer is to link the seller with the consumer. The seller deals with any consumer complaints after you receive your commission from the sale.

3. Work from home.

If you’re someone who hates going to the office, affiliate marketing is the perfect solution. You’ll be able to launch campaigns and receive revenue from the products that sellers create while working from the comfort of your own home. This is a job you can do without ever getting out of your pajamas.

4. Cost-effective.

Most businesses require startup fees as well as a cash flow to finance the products being sold. However, affiliate marketing can be done at a low cost, meaning you can get started quickly and without much hassle. There are no affiliate program fees to worry about and no need to create a product. Beginning this line of work is relatively straightforward.

5. Convenient and flexible.

Since you’re essentially becoming a freelancer, you get ultimate independence in setting your own goals, redirecting your path when you feel so inclined, choosing the products that interest you, and even determining your own hours. This convenience means you can diversify your portfolio if you like or focus solely on simple and straightforward campaigns. You’ll also be free from company restrictions and regulations as well as ill-performing teams.

6. Performance-Based rewards.

With other jobs, you could work an 80-hour week and still earn the same salary. Affiliate marketing is purely based on your performance. You’ll get from it what you put into it. Honing your reviewing skills and writing engaging campaigns will translate to direct improvements in your revenue. You’ll finally get paid for the outstanding work you do!

7. Do Not Underestimate the Power of SEO.

There’s a ton of organic traffic you can get from search engines if you do SEO properly. The days when Search Engine Optimization was about cheating Google are gone. Today, it is about making your website better for visitors. People naturally look for information online. That’s why you should learn the basics of on-page SEO, keyword research and link building to be the information source they find first. Who wouldn’t want to rank #1 for terms such as “best product” or “product review” in Google?

Common Types of Affiliate Marketing Channels

Most affiliates share common practices to ensure that their audience is engaged and receptive to purchasing promoted products. But not all affiliates advertise the products in the same way. In fact, there are several different marketing channels they may leverage.

1. Influencers.

An influencer is an individual who holds the power to impact the purchasing decisions of a large segment of the population. This person is in a great position to benefit from affiliate marketing. They already boast an impressive following, so it’s easy for them to direct consumers to the seller’s products through social media posts, blogs, and other interactions with their followers. The influencers then receive a share of the profits they helped to create.

2. Bloggers.

With the ability to rank organically in search engine queries, bloggers excel at increasing a seller’s conversions. The blogger samples the product or service and then writes a comprehensive review that promotes the brand in a compelling way, driving traffic back to the seller’s site.

The blogger is awarded for his or her influence spreading the word about the value of the product, helping to improve the seller’s sales. For example, my article on the best email marketing services includes product reviews and affiliate links throughout.

affiliate marketing blog

3. Paid search focused microsites.

Developing and monetizing microsites can also garner a serious amount of sales. These sites are advertised within a partner site or on the sponsored listings of a search engine. They are distinct and separate from the organization’s main site. By offering more focused, relevant content to a specific audience, microsites lead to increased conversions due to their simple and straightforward call to action.

4. Email lists.

Despite its older origins, email marketing is still a viable source of affiliate marketing income. Some affiliates have email lists they can use to promote the seller’s products. Others may leverage email newsletters that include hyperlinks to products, earning a commission after the consumer purchases the product. Another method is for the affiliate to build an email list over time. They use their various campaigns to collect emails en masse, then send out emails regarding the products they are promoting.

5. Large media websites.

Designed to create a huge amount of traffic at all times, these sites focus on building an audience of millions. These websites promote products to their massive audience through the use of banners and contextual affiliate links. This method offers superior exposure and improves conversion rates, resulting in a top-notch revenue for both the seller and the affiliate.

Tips to Help You Become A Successful Affiliate Marketer

1. Develop a rapport.

When beginning your affiliate marketing career, you’ll want to cultivate an audience that has very specific interests. This allows you to tailor your affiliate campaigns to that niche, increasing the likelihood that you’ll convert. By establishing yourself as an expert in one area instead of promoting a large array of products, you’ll be able to market to the people most likely to buy the product.

2. Make it personal.

There is no shortage of products you’ll be able to promote. You’ll have the ability to pick and choose products that you personally believe in, so make sure that your campaigns center around truly valuable products that consumers will enjoy. You’ll achieve an impressive conversion rate while simultaneously establishing the reliability of your personal brand.

You’ll also want to get really good at email outreach to work with other bloggers and influencers. Use a tool like ContactOut or Voila Norbert to gather people’s contact information and send personalized emails to garner guest blogging and affiliate opportunities.

3. Start reviewing products and services.

Focus on reviewing products and services that fall within your niche. Then, leveraging the rapport you have created with your audience and your stance as an expert, tell your readers why they would benefit from purchasing the product or service you are promoting. Almost anything sold online can be reviewed if there is an affiliate program – you can review physical products, digital software, or even services booked online, like ride sharing or travel resort booking. It is especially effective to compare this product to others in the same category. Most importantly, make sure you are generating detailed, articulate content to improve conversions.

4. Use several sources.

Instead of focusing on just an email campaign, also spend time making money with a blog, reaching out to your audience on social media, and even looking into cross-channel promotions. Test a variety of marketing strategies to see which one your audience responds to the most. Make frequent use of this technique.

5. Choose campaigns with care.

No matter how good your marketing skills are, you’ll make less money on a bad product than you will on a valuable one. Take the time to study the demand for a product before promoting it. Make sure to research the seller with care before teaming up. Your time is worth a lot, and you want to be sure you’re spending it on a product that is profitable and a seller you can believe in.

6. Stay current with trends.

There is serious competition in the affiliate marketing sphere. You’ll want to make sure you stay on top of any new trends to ensure you remain competitive. Additionally, you’ll likely be able to benefit from at least a few of the new marketing techniques that are constantly being created. Be sure you’re keeping up to date on all these new strategies to guarantee that your conversion rates, and therefore revenue, will be as high as possible.

1. Improved affiliate reporting and attribution.

Many affiliate programs run with last-click attribution, where the affiliate receiving the last click before the sale gets 100% credit for the conversion. This is changing. With affiliate platforms providing new attribution models and reporting features, you are able to see a full-funnel, cross-channel view of how individual marketing tactics are working together. For example, you might see that a paid social campaign generated the first click, Affiliate X got click 2, and Affiliate Y got the last click. With this full picture, you can structure your affiliate commissions so that Affiliate X gets a percentage of the credit for the sale, even though they didn’t get the last click.

2. Influencer niches are becoming hyper-targeted.

In the past, large affiliates were the mainstay, as catch-all coupon and media sites gave traffic to hundreds or thousands of advertisers. This is not so much the case anymore. With consumers using long-tail keywords and searching for very specific products and services, influencers can leverage their hyper-focused niche for affiliate marketing success. Influencers may not send advertisers huge amounts of traffic, but the audience they do send is credible, targeted, and has higher conversion rates.

3. GDPR is changing how personal data is collected.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect on May 25, 2018, is a set of regulations governing the use of personal data across the EU. This is forcing some affiliates to obtain user data through opt-in consent (updated privacy policies and cookie notices), even if they are not located in the European Union. This new regulation should also remind you to follow FTC guidelines and clearly disclose that you receive affiliate commissions from your recommendations.

4. Affiliate marketers are getting smarter.

Merchants receiving a large percentage of their revenue from the affiliate channel can become reliant on their affiliate partners. This can lead to affiliate marketers leveraging their important status to receive higher commissions and better deals with their advertisers. Whether it’s CPA, CPL, or CPC commission structures, there are a lot of high paying affiliate programs and affiliate marketers are in the driver’s seat.

What Affiliate Marketing Strategies Should You Employ in 2019?

1. Only recommend products you are extremely familiar with.

Building trust with your audience is paramount in affiliate marketing, and the quickest way to lose trust is to recommend products either you haven’t used before or that aren’t a good fit for your audience. Also make sure you never tell anyone to directly buy a product, you are simply recommending the product. The more helpful you are and the more you make quality recommendations, the more likely your web visitors will come back for your expertise.

2. Promote products from many different merchants.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you only promote one merchant’s products, you are stuck with their commissions, their landing pages, and ultimately, their conversion rates. It is important to work with many different merchants in your niche and promote a wide range of products. This affiliate marketing strategy will diversify the amount of commissions you make and create a steady stream of revenue when building an affiliate website.

3. Constantly test and optimize your conversion rates.

Let’s say you have a promotions page where you’re promoting a product via affiliate links. If you currently get 5,000 visits/month at a 2% conversion rate, you have 100 referrals. To get to 200 referrals, you can either focus on getting 5,000 more visitors, or simply increasing the conversion rate to 4%. Which sounds easier? Instead of spending months building domain authority with blogging and guest posts to get more organic traffic, you just have to increase the conversion rate by 2%. This can include landing page optimization, testing your calls-to-action, and having a conversion rate optimization strategy in place. By testing and optimizing your site, you’ll get far better results with much less effort.

affiliate marketing strategies

4. Focus on your affiliate traffic sources.

It’s important to know where your traffic is coming from and the demographics of your audience. This will allow you to customize your messaging so that you can provide the best affiliate product recommendations. You shouldn’t just focus on the vertical you’re in, but on the traffic sources and audience that’s visiting your site. Traffic sources may include organic, paid, social media, referral, display, email, or direct traffic. You can view traffic source data in Google Analytics to view things such as time on page, bounce rate, geo location, age, gender, time of day, devices (mobile vs. desktop), and more so that you can focus your effort on the highest converting traffic. This analytics data is crucial to making informed decisions, increasing your conversion rates, and making more affiliate sales.

Instagram Will Remove ‘Likes’ From Posts for Some U.S. Users

Facebook Inc.’s Instagram plans to remove the number of “likes” visible on posts for some users in the U.S. to decrease competitive pressure among people on the photo-sharing service.

Instagram has been hiding like counts in some markets since April, beginning in Canada, and later expanding to Japan and Brazil. The U.S. is one of Instagram’s largest markets with more than 106 million users, according to data analyst EMarketer.

“What we’re hoping to do is depressurize Instagram a little bit, and make it a bit less of a competition,” Instagram boss Adam Mosseri told after announcing the new test at a conference in San Francisco sponsored by Wired magazine. “The idea is to try and reduce anxiety and social comparisons, specifically with an eye towards young people.”

Users will still be able to see the likes they receive on their posts if they want, but those metrics won’t be visible to others on Instagram, the company said. Mosseri said the test will begin next week, and will impact just a portion of Instagram’s U.S. user base.

Instagram’s follower counts and likes have made it one of the top places online to compare one’s popularity with others, especially among teens and young adults. The company has tried for years to combat the competitive trend by promoting good role models via posts on its @instagram account, hoping to reflect the parts of the app that are about creativity and art as opposed to self-promotion. Still, striving for the metrics was irresistible for its users, contributing to mental health issues and other ills, like users paying for fake likes and followers from bots.

Even some of the app’s most prolific celebrities have said a service without likes may be healthier for its users.

“It would be really beneficial,” said Kim Kardashian, speaking at the New York Times DealBook conference on Wednesday. Kardashian, who has 151 million Instagram followers and regularly receives more than 1 million likes on her posts, said the Instagram team has been discussing the changes with select users to get feedback, “and that makes me happy.”

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have been at the center of debate around issues like smartphone addiction and online health in recent years. As a result, product “health” has become a priority at the social-media companies, which are trying to balance the need to drive user growth and engagement with the outside perception that they are contributing to problems such as online bullying.

Instagram, for example, has also announced a feature where users can limit the amount of time they spend on the app in a given day. Apple Inc. built a similar “time spent” feature into its iPhone software, and Google offers tools like this for Android phones. Twitter has a beta version of its main product that hides engagement metrics, including likes and retweets, from user replies and interactions.

Want to Retire Early? Do This One Thing.

Have you ever done the math to see when you can retire? There are many retirement calculators that can help with this eye-opening exercise, but you may find that your income won’t add up as soon as you’d like.

I’m here to give you good news: You don’t have to wait decades for the financial freedom to retire. One way to potentially retire earlier is to start an online business. Doing so can substantially change your income and lifestyle — if you go about it the right way.

For example, Amazon sales are increasing exponentially, and half of them come from small and medium-sized businesses. But for all the successful businesses, there are many that fail.

Here are seven common mistakes I see many online business owners make — and what you should do instead.

Mistake No. 1: Trying to invent a market.

I’ve seen many entrepreneurs jump in feet first with a product idea that’s completely unproven in the market. They spend a lot of time and money developing and launching it because they think it’s a cool idea, only to find that nobody else does.

Unless your goal is to exercise your creativity, the best way to launch a profitable e-commerce business is to find a product category that’s already popular. Even if you aren’t selling on Amazon, take a look at the Best Sellers Rank (BSR) on Amazon product pages to see how a product is performing, with No. 1 being the bestseller in its category. Look for products with a BSR between 100 and 6,000 in the high-level category, which means they’re selling well but aren’t too competitive.

Mistake No. 2: Selling someone else’s brand.

It’s tempting to sell a product with the manufacturer’s branding rather than go through the trouble of creating your own. While that’s easier at first, your competitors are selling the exact same product — which means you’re competing on nothing but price. As a result, your margins are tight at best.

Instead, create your own brand. Many manufacturers on Alibaba.com will let you “private label” their generic products, meaning you can package and sell them under your own name. (To be clear, you should not and legally cannot counterfeit someone else’s unique product. But you certainly can manufacture your own versions of generic products, ranging from basic tools to complex electronics.) This differentiates your business from the competition, even though you’re still selling similar products. When you own the brand, your margins are higher, you have more control, and you’re building a valuable business that you can sell later if you choose.

Mistake No. 3: Choosing the cheapest product.

Many people go with the cheapest version of a product possible. But if you’re selling a low-quality product, you won’t get repeat sales, referrals, or positive reviews that you can use in your marketing, which ultimately means the business won’t be profitable.

Consider a car cell phone mount selling for $30. The difference between the lowest-quality version and the best is often only $1 or $2, especially if it’s coming from China. That doesn’t have a huge impact on your profit margin, but whether you choose to spend it can have a long-term impact on the business. 

However, don’t assume that a product is higher quality just because it costs more. When you’re deciding what to sell, research the reviews of competing products to find out what people like and dislike. To go above and beyond, order a few of the bestsellers that you’d be competing with. Then research suppliers on Alibaba, ask them for product photos, and eventually pay for a few samples before choosing a product that’s as good as or better than what’s out there.

Mistake No. 4: Spending too much money.

I’ve heard horror stories of entrepreneurs who spent $40,000 on a bad product and are stuck in debt with a product that won’t sell. Unless you’re willing to risk that kind of money, you should never order that much inventory — and there’s no reason to.

We coach hundreds of online businesses and found that they spend an average of $1,200 on initial inventory. Once you sell your initial inventory and confirm your idea works, you can use the profits to invest in more. If you can’t get the business off the ground for a few thousand dollars — $10,000 at the most if you have extra money — then you’re probably doing something wrong.

Mistake No. 5: Underestimating the importance of marketing.

Many people spend all their time and effort developing the product, setting up the business, and building their website or Amazon product page; so they lose steam before it’s time for marketing. Then they expect magic to happen, but that’s actually where the realwork begins.

Unless you get lucky, it’s likely going to be a grind. Don’t get discouraged or invest too much right away. First, test different marketing strategies to find out what works for you. Start by advertising on Facebook (and Amazon, if you’re starting an Amazon business), testing on a small scale; you should be able to spend as little as $200 to get a statistical significance. Then expand slowly, doing more of whatever works.

When you’re ready to try new things, what works best will depend on you. If you’re analytical, you might enjoy optimizing your ads more. If you’re creative, you may do well with social media or content marketing. 

Mistake No. 6: Prioritizing incorrectly.

Many entrepreneurs need to get their priorities straight. For example, it doesn’t matter how many people your marketing drives to your website or Amazon page if it isn’t strong enough to convert them into customers. Prioritize finding a quality product, then creating a solid website. Only after you’ve dialed that in and had success with ads should you test other marketing campaigns.

Mistake No. 7: Scaling too quickly.

Once you’re doing well, you might think it’s a good idea to add new products — or worse, new brands. Launching a new brand is almost always a mistake because you have no leverage other than your experience. You can’t sell to your existing customers, so you’re starting from scratch.

It’s human nature to want to expand quickly but go deep before you go wide. Double down on marketing before adding a new product; otherwise you lose focus on your first one, which may not be as stable as you think. If you try to manage too many products at once, the whole business can come crumbling down.

You may be ready to scale when you’ve been producing consistent and predictable results for several consecutive months. What’s most important is that you aren’t constantly putting out fires; so first make sure your business is running smoothly. Even if you plan on scaling, don’t forget to stop and celebrate when you reach that point — because it means you’re on your way to early retirement.

7 Realistic Ways to Make Money Online

Whether you’re looking to make some fast cash, or you’re after long-term, more sustainable income-producing results, there are certainly ways you can make money online today. The truth is that making money online isn’t as difficult as most make it out to seem. It does require some discipline. 

However, if you’re looking for realistic ways you can start earning money online now, then it really truly does boil down to seven paths you can take towards profit. Some will provide you with immediate results, helping you to address your basic monthly necessities such as rent, utilities and groceries, while others have the potential to transform your life by revolutionizing your finances in the long term.

No matter what method you select for generating your online income, there’s one very important thing to understand. Money can be earned and spent, saved and pilfered, invested and wasted. Not time. That’s why time is far more valuable than money. You can’t recreate time. Once it’s spent, it’s gone forever.

When you lack the luxury of time, making money on or offline can seem like an impossible task. How are you supposed to do that when you’re working at a life-sucking nine-to-five job? While the stability of full-time employment might allow most to sleep well at night, it doesn’t empower your creative juices to search for new income-producing strategies.

No matter what method you end up using to generate an income on the web, you need to adjust your mindset to help empower rather than discourage you. The truth is, making money online can be fraught with avoidable pitfalls. Cancel the noise by keeping a few fundamental guiding principles in mind.

If you’re at all serious about generating a full-time income and possibly more from your online activities, then you need to focus on passive income as opposed to active income. Sure, the active income will help you survive. That’s the scarcity mentality at play. But it’s the passive income ideas that will help you thrive.

Considering that you have a finite amount of time, passive income should make up a large part of your work. If you’re serious about generating any semblance of income online, then passive income should be one of your sole goals and ambitions. Why? Wouldn’t you prefer to do the work one time and get paid repeatedly as opposed to relying on your time to generate that income? Invest the time at the front-end so that you can reap the benefits on the back-end. This means putting in a bit of sweat equity and not getting paid today. Rather, you’ll get paid somewhere down the road. And you’ll continue getting paid whether you keep building that passive income stream or you stop. 

Anyone interested in making money online should be pursuing passive income, while also working on active income. There are loads of ways to generate an income passively on the internet, many of which start at the foundation of having a blog, generating substantial traffic and building an audience and a list. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. 

That doesn’t mean you need to start a blog to make money online today. You could opt for a non-blog-starting route, but if you’re looking for longevity in your income-producing abilities on the internet, then a blog should be your primary aim.

1. Leverage the app economy

If you’re looking to address some immediate financial needs, then the app economy is likely right for you.

Uber or Lyft: If you’re in a locale where you can find Uber or Lyft, or  one of the many competitors around the world such as China’s Didi, the hours are flexible and you can work as you see fit, making it perfect, even if you currently have full-time employment but are looking to make some money on the side. 

Postmates: You don’t even need a car in some locations to make money with this app. In some major metroplitan areas like Manhattan, a bike would suffice. 

iBotta: Earn cash back rewards by purchasing featured products at major retailers. All you have to do is add rebates, go shopping, then snap a photo of your receipt to earn your cash back. Simple and effective. 

Task RabbitAnother simple and straightforward app for making a bit of side-hustle income is the Task Rabbit app. Tasks can be anything from simple repairs to more exhaustive undertakings. The app carefully vets each service provider to ensure the highest quality, and it’s a great way to make some extra income on the side on your own terms. 

Ebates: This app offers a simple way to make money online by buying whatever you’re already buying and then getting a cash-back reward. With eBates, there’s no scanning receipts. Simply click a link in the app and buy from the store. You’ll automatically be credited your cash rewards upon purchase along with receiving an email confirmation.  

SwagbucksWith Swagbucks, there are a number of ways you can make money. You can shop online, watch videos, answer surveys and surf the web. The app gives you both cash back and gift cards as a reward for your efforts. 

Inbox Dollars: Another app you can use to make money online is Inbox Dollars, which pays you for watching television, taking surveys and shopping. There are cash offers here and it’s relatively similar to some of the other apps in this arena.  

2. Use existing websites

You could also opt to use existing websites for making money. These include both active income and passive income methods. For example, you could sell some used items or invest in creating some digital designs that then can be sold on merchandise. Again, devote a sizable portion of your time to passive income so that you can slowly build up earnings that will arrive on autopilot without any extra added effort. 

Of course, a large portion of these sites do have their own respective apps. But these are certainly less involved in the gig economy, and more so in the longer term projects that exist in the fields of photography, online marketing, graphic design and web development, for example. 

Craigslist: This site has been the go-to resource for over a decade now for people that are looking to make a bit of extra money online. You can easily sell your used stuff, rent out a spare room in your home or apartment, and offer up your services to the world. 

Upwork: This website offers a great marketplace for selling just about any professional service. You don’t need a merchant account, website of your own or anything else for that matter. All you need to do is be able to provide a high-quality service at a reasonable price. But be informed, you will have to compete with many others that are constantly bidding on open jobs. 

Cafe Press: This website allows you to create digital designs that can then be sold on the platform. You’ll earn a commission for everything that sells and you’ll never have to deal with logistics like printing, warehousing and customer service. If you have some graphic design skills, then this is a great potential source for your web-based income. 

Fiverr: Israeli-based Fivver was started in 2010 by Shal Wininger and Micha Kaufam. You can offer gigs as low as $5 but also get paid much more for upgrades and add-ons.  

Mechanical Turk: Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a resource for doing human-intelligence tasks, or as the site commonly refers to them, HITs. You get paid a very small fee for any given HIT and you’ll need a good deal of volume to make a substantial amount of money. But it is a resource you can use in your spare time to generate a small income online. 

Flippa: If you have a penchant for buying and selling, you could use Flippa, and its higher-end counterpart, Deal Flow Brokerage to buy and sell websites for a profit. You’ll need to know what you’re doing here, but you could easily make a sizable income by flipping income-generating websites for profit. 

Etsy: While Etsy’s popularity has declined recently, it’s still a great resource for selling handmade items online. No need for complex ecommerce sites or merchant accounts or any sort of automation. The company takes a commission of every sale and charges a small listing fee per item. But many still use Etsy as their primary source of income. The best part is that you can also sell digital products on here such as poster designs. 

Shutterstock and iStockPhoto: Have a keen eye for photography? Why not sell photos on some of the leading photography sites. You’ll need some design software skills to tag along. But if you do have skill in this arena, it’s a great potential source for passive income. 

Threadless: Similar to CafePress, Chicago-based Threadless also allows you to sell digital designs in the form of t-shirts and other merchandise such as phone cases, mugs, beach towels and so on. 

Zazzle: Another great resource for selling online is to use Robert Beaver’s Zazzle. The site is somewhat similar to Etsy and virtually anyone can make money online selling a variety of items here. From art to handmade items and customizable products, you can pretty much sell anything here.

3. Sell your own stuff

If you’re ready to enter the ecommerce fray, you could sell your own stuff. Of course, along with selling your own stuff on your own website comes a whole slew of both responsibilities and technical configuration and requirements. For starters, you’ll need a website and a hosting account. You’ll also need a merchant account like ones offered by Stripe or PayPal. Then you’ll need to design that site, build a sales funnel, create a lead magnet and do some email marketing.

You’ll also need ecommerce software, fulfillment software, worry about warehousing, customer service and refunds. But that’s not all. You’ll also need traffic. Think search engine optimization, Facebook ads, and other social media campaigns. It is hard work, especially on your own. You could opt for Amazon’s platform, which might be the easier route. But, then again, at the end of the day, this is a serious business, which could produce significant profits. So you’re either all in or you’re not. 

Shopify: Want to build your own storefront? You could opt to create a Shopify store. You could also install WooCommerce as a plugin and run your ecommerce store from your blog. You’ll need an SSL certificate and a way to process payments, but you might find this easier to get up and running fast to start selling immediately. 

Fulfilled-by-Amazon (FBA): You could  start selling on the largest online store in the world and not spend the time to build out your own infrastructure or worry about traffic. You will need to pay a commission, but most of the other processes will be automated for you. 

Drop-shipping: Amazon offers one form of drop-shipping, but there are other resources for drop-shipping products that you’ll never actually have to see or handle yourself. You’ll simply need to close the sale. Providers like SaleHooWorldwide Brands, and many others, offer you a resource for drop-shipping your products.  

High-ticket consulting or coaching: You could sell your own high-ticket consulting or coaching products from your website. You’ll still need a website, merchant account, sales funnel, lead magnet and many other items. But you can easily earn a substantial amount of money from each individual customer, making it well worth the arduous setup required. 

4. Sell as an affiliate

There are loads of resources for making money online as an affiliate. You could source products from ClickBankCommission JunctionRakuten MarketingShare-a-Sale, Impact Radius and many others. Plus, many of the larger companies have their own affiliate programs as well. Do your due diligence and find the right company with a relevant product or service to your audience that you can sell as an affiliate.

In some cases, you will need an active website with substantial traffic to get approved. Selling as an affiliate isn’t easy by any means, but if you do have the audience, it can definitely amount to a substantial amount of income.

5. Start a blog

If you’re serious about making money online, start a blog. Blogging is one of the easiest and most sustainable income sources. As long as the blog is setup the right way, in the right niche, with the right content targeted at the right audience, and the offer is complementary to the content, you could make a tremendous amount of passive income from a blog.

While some might think that starting a blog is an arduous effort, when you understand the precise steps you need to take, it becomes far easier. It all starts in the decision of choosing a profitable niche and picking the right domain name. From there, you need to build your offers. You can easily sell things like mini-email courses, trainings and ebooks.

6. Email marketing

If you’re interested in online marketing, setup email software and create a lead magnet that you can use in your sales funnel. Then, build up that list. It’s often said that you can expect to earn about $1 per subscriber per month. If you have a list of 10,000 subscribers, that means you can earn roughly around $10,000 per month. You will need to deliver value and not pitch them on every email, but it is a very achievable goal in a short period.

There are many ways to get people onto your list. Lead magnets are one such resource. For example, you can build ebooks, checklists and cheat sheets. But you can also do content upgrades, such as PDF versions of an article with added resources in them, four-part video training series, and more. Think about your audience and what you can offer them to better serve them, then treat them with some respect and you’ll eventually reap the rewards.

7. Webinars trainings

Webinars are quite possibly one of the most potent ways you can make an exorbitant amount of money online. You’ll need an audience to train and you’ll need to know what you’re talking about. Of course, this usually requires having a website and some semblance of an online presence. However, people can still do webinars without all of that. For example, you might have a sizable social media following and you train them every week on something to do with social media. But you will need a product to embed and sell at some point. Don’t worry about it in the beginning. In my experience, the best webinar platform out there is GoToWebinar

No matter what method you choose to make money online, understand that you might be able to make some money fast, but for the sizable returns, you’ll need significant sweat equity. However, a year from now, you’ll be happy you started today. Remember, time is far more valuable than money. Focus on creating passive income streams that will free up your time so that you can quit the rat race and focus on the things that matter. 

How to Start a Business: 13 Steps to Get Your Business Up and Running

Running a business can have a powerful impact on your life and the lives of those around you. But before you can run a business, you need to start a business.

Deciding to start your own business can seem like a daunting prospect if you’ve never done it before. Luckily, plenty of other entrepreneurs have, and you can benefit from the wisdom they gleaned from their successes—and their mistakes.

These 13 time-tested steps will help you start a business—whether it’s your first or your 10th—with tips on everything from finding and validating your money-making idea to figuring out your shipping strategy to finally launching your product or service.

  1. Use the time you have available
  2. Identify a business idea
  3. Validate your business idea
  4. Find a business name
  5. Make a plan
  6. Understand business finances
  7. Develop your product or service
  8. Pick a business structure
  9. Research licenses and regulations
  10. Select your software systems
  11. Find a business location
  12. Plan workload and team size
  13. Launch your business

1. Use the time you have available

No matter how ambitious your business goals ultimately are, you can still start a business in your spare time, working around the current commitments in your life. Not everyone has the ability to quit their full-time job and pursue launching something of their own, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get started.

For example, it’s possible to launch a handmade goods company on the side of a full-time job, or start a blog that you later turn into a business.

2. Identify a business idea

Finding a business idea is something you can approach systematically by relying on time-tested approaches that have worked for other entrepreneurs. No matter if you’re looking to start a low investment business on the side or you’d prefer to go all-in on your idea, the best way to find a product to sell includes strategies like:

  • Mining your personal interests. What do you like to do in your spare time? Are there products you can sell that relate to your hobbies, or that would solve a common frustration you have?
  • Research existing products. Peruse product reviews to see if there are common complaints about popular products, and see if you can identify gaps in the market.
  • Capitalize on trends. If you notice a particular product seems to be popping up everywhere, or you have a great idea to help make the most of a popular product, those can make for great business ideas.

Remember, all you need is one idea to get started. Many successful businesses launched with a signature product and expanded into complementary goods from there.

3. Validate your business idea

Validating your business might sound difficult, but it’s really just a matter of testing whether customers are willing to pay for your product before you sink too much time and money into it—and it’s important to do no matter what type of business you’re starting.

There are plenty of ways to validate your business, from the simple to the complex. Here are some tactical examples that can help you figure out how to gauge market demand before getting in too deep.

  • Set up a store to take preorders 
  • Launch a crowdfunding campaign
  • Create a beta of your product or service to sell

There are other ways to validate your product ideas, but when in doubt, start selling as quickly as possible. Learning from direct customer feedback, and understanding how your products are being used, is invaluable when growing a small business.

Take PopSockets, a now-ubiquitous way to confidently hold a smartphone in one hand. Initially, David Barnett designed PopSockets as a way to manage headphone cords. It wasn’t until he saw students in his class using their PopSockets to get a better grip on their phone that he realized the unplanned value his customers saw in the product. That insight helped PopSockets sell more than 35 million units. 

4. Find a business name

Work on finding a name for your business that makes it clear what you do, that’s short and memorable, and that isn’t already in use in your industry. This isn’t an easy task, but it’s one that’s achievable with a bit of effort and imagination.

Name generators can help you come up with a list of unique ideas, and there are also plenty of time-tested naming best practices you can lean on to help build your own list.

A strong name will usually have a few characteristics:

  • Short and simple. You want customers to be able to quickly remember your name, and the best way to do that is to avoid long names. One or two words is ideal, although three to four short words can also work if they create a memorable phrase.
  • Different. If your market research shows that everyone in your industry seems to have similar names, or relies on similar elements, it can be helpful to avoid them in order to come up with a name that really stands out.
  • Original. Beyond just avoiding similar names, you’ll need to make sure that your business name isn’t in use by a competitor already. To do that, run a free trademark search in the countries you’ll be doing business in, and make sure to check Google and social media sites, too. (The same goes for URLs, so do a domain name search too before you register anything.) Even if someone hasn’t registered a trademark, in many jurisdictions they can legally challenge your use of a name they’ve been using to do business in the same industry. If you’re unsure, it’s best to consult independent legal counsel for advice specific to your situation.

5. Make a plan

Writing a business plan helps validate and formalize your idea, and can streamline the business-creation process by getting you to sit down and think things through methodically.

A classic quotation that’s especially applicable to the business plan process is, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Many entrepreneurs say they rarely look at their plan once they’ve launched—but they’ll also tell you there’s value in thinking through and researching your idea while creating a plan. 

If you’ve never done it before, here’s a comprehensive guide to writing a business plan, and a business plan template to help you structure your thoughts. 

When creating your plan, make sure to pay extra attention to the competitive analysis and SWOT analysis sections. While nothing can replace validating your idea by confirming that people will pay for it, the research involved in completing these sections can be further proof you’re on the right track.

6. Understand business finances

The shared goal of any business is to make money, which means the flow of money is an integral part of running a business. You’ll need to understand some basics to get started and scale that knowledge as you grow.

There are plenty of businesses you can start with only a small startup cost, but others will require money for inventory, equipment, or physical space. A clear view of your total investment—before you spend a cent—is a must, and can help you make important projections, like when you’ll break even. 

A clear view of your total startup costs is a must before you spend a cent.

If those calculations show you you’ll need more funding than you can afford to spend out of pocket, you can look at funding options like a small business loan or a crowdfunding campaign. 

Bookkeeping needs to be one of your primary financial tasks as soon as you’re ready to start making purchases for your business. Accurate records of your income and expenses will help you keep an eye on cash flow, and make for a smooth transition to working with an accountant or bookkeeper later on. 

To make the process even easier, consider opening a separate bank account and credit card for your business. Keeping your personal and business finances separate makes doing your business taxes much simpler, and can help you automate some of the steps as well. 

Resources:

  • Shopify Capital. Helps approved merchants get the funds they need without lengthy bank approvals or giving up part of their company.
  • Profit First. A book designed to help make sure your business is profitable, no matter what kind of business you run.
  • Accounting tools. Apps that work directly with Shopify to streamline your accounting processes.

7. Develop your product or service

You’ve done the legwork, and you understand the financials—now it’s time to dig deep into the product or service you’d like to offer. 

For a product-driven business, developing your product could mean taking one of three general approaches.

  • Creating your own product. Whether you’re making items by hand, or sourcing an original product from a manufacturer, developing your own product to sell can help you stand out in the market.
  • Customizing an existing product. With print on demand options, you can add your unique designs and ideas to products including t-shirts, leggings, towels, backpacks and more.
  • Curating a selection of products. Dropshipping is a way to stock your store without creating a new product, so you can start selling almost immediately without managing inventory.

As you develop your product, keep your total costs in mind when figuring out your pricing. While your product’s price is not solely driven by costs—and there are many factors that influence pricing strategy—it’s important to price your product profitably.

8. Pick a business structure

Your business structure influences key parts of your business, from taxes to operations to your personal liability. Choosing the right structure is about balancing the legal and financial protections you need with the flexibility offered by different options. It’s an important decision, and it’s one you should consider carefully before you launch your business.

Choosing the right structure is about balancing the legal and financial protections you need with the flexibility offered by different options.

Business structures vary based on your country and area, but two common types—that may go by different names in your country—are sole proprietorship and incorporation. A sole proprietorship is great if you’re the only person involved in the business, and is usually the lowest-effort structure to pursue, but you remain personally liable for the business and its activities. You can even hire employees as a sole proprietor, but you’ll need an employer identification number to do so, which means registering your business.

On the other hand, if you opt for a more formal structure like a corporation, it’s easier to involve multiple owners in the business, and you’re not personally liable for the business—but there’s more paperwork and steps involved in starting and maintaining a corporation.

When it comes to choosing a business structure, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider. 

  • Where is your business located? Your country’s laws will outline the different business structures you can form., and whether or not you need a business license to get started.
  • What kind of business are you running? Some structures are more suited to businesses of a certain scale or within a certain industry. There might come a time when you need to restructure your business in order to work with new partners. It’s not uncommon for large businesses to ask that their suppliers or partners be incorporated, for example. 
  • How many people are involved? If you’re going it alone as a solo founder, you may be able to look at streamlined options. If you have a business partner or multiple people with ownership in the company, you’ll need to look at more advanced options to ensure everything is set up and shared properly.

An accountant or lawyer can be helpful in evaluating the different options available in your area and with the process of setting up your business.

9. Research licenses and regulations

No one wants to end up in legal trouble. Your business is subject to the laws governing businesses in your area, as well as laws and regulations specific to your industry. For instance, a food service business needs to follow specific licensing and regulations for handling what it sells, but it also has to pay attention to the legalities of its marketing efforts and to trademark and copyright laws. 

With so much to know, and a lot of it specific to your location and industry, it’s worth consulting with a lawyer to get advice before you launch your business. Investing time and money upfront to obtain legal advice can save you from considerable headaches down the road.

10. Select your software systems

One of the best ways to reduce the heavy lifting involved in running a business, and to set yourself up for future success, is choosing software that can help you automate or streamline the things you need to do.

Often, when you choose the right software systems, you’ll be able to set them up once and have them run efficiently with little ongoing work. Consider looking into software to help you manage the following:

  • Accounting. With multiple options to help you track everything from a meal with your business partner to a big inventory order, accounting software is one of the best ways to start your business off on the right financial foot.
  • Email marketing. A good email marketing tool will help you stay in touch with your current (and future) customers and make sure you’re able to send the right messages to the right people at the right time.
  • Ads. Paying for ads is often a cost of doing business, especially online, but there’s marketing software that can help streamline the process and make the most of your advertising budget—no matter how much you have to spend.
  • Project management. Even if you’re a sole proprietor, having one place to plan your work and keep track of important tasks can help you stay on schedule. Tools like Trello and Asana can help.
  • Website or online store. Choose a platform that allows you to easily manage all the critical tasks involved in running your business. Look for a theme that supports your product lines to the ability to take and manage orders easily. To get an idea of what you’ll need to do, here’s a comprehensive store launch checklist.

Free Course: Getting Started with Shopify. Learn everything you need to know about starting a Shopify store, with step-by-step video walkthroughs, from a six-figure store owner.

11. Find a business location

Your business plan will help guide what kind of space you need for your business. If you’re selling print-on-demand t-shirts, you may only need to find space in your home for a small workspace, a desk, and a laptop. On the other hand, if your business requires in-person retail space, you’ll need to find a place to rent. 

To help narrow down what you need from your business location, consider these questions:

  • How much space will you need for inventory? If you’re accepting deliveries of thousands of items at once, you may not be able to accommodate it in your living room.
  • Do you plan on offering in-person retail sales? While selling out of your home is certainly an option for your first orders, if in-person is an important channel you’ll want to find space that’s comfortable and easily accessible for customers to visit.
  • Will you be packing and shipping orders from your location? Depending on the scale of your shipping operations, that may necessitate more space than you have available in a home office.

It’s possible you’ll be able to run your business from a space you already have available, especially if you don’t plan to sell in-person. If that’s the case, here are some home-office design ideas to help you create an effective workspace while you get your business off the ground. 

12. Plan workload and team size

How much work will you need to do and what skills will be required to launch your business? These are fundamental questions you’ll need to answer, because they’ll guide both your timeline and your level of investment in the launch. 

If you plan to do all of the work yourself, you’re limited by the time you have available to invest. If you plan on hiring help, you’ll need to account for those costs—as well as the time involved in finding and onboarding freelancers or employees.

Here’s an overview of the basic skills you’ll need to learn, know, or hire as you launch.

Design

There are many design decisions that need to be made as you set up your business, from designing a logo to choosing your brand’s colors. There are tools available to help make some initial decisions and guide you in the right direction.

  • Logo. You can rely on a logo creator like Hatchful or online image software like Canva to build your logo.
  • Colors. Start with one of the many online tools that can create a color palette, or use Hatchful to pick colors for your brand.
  • Website design. Starting with a professional theme for your website gives you a site that’s based on design best practices.

If a DIY approach to setting up your store is too far outside of your area of expertise, you can find professional designers by asking for referrals from other business owners or searching for a Shopify Expert. 

Photography

Great photos are essential to your business, especially if you’re selling online, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t DIY your product photography. 

Marketing

Marketing is an integral part of your business, and can require multiple skill sets. Start by deciding which marketing activities will have the biggest impact for your new business, and use your plans to make a list of the skills you’ll need to execute them. For example, running paid ads is a much different skill set than taking lifestyle photos to build your Instagram following. 

Research and understand some of the most common promotional tactics used in your industry, and make sure you have the skills required to implement them.

Shipping

Once products are ordered, how will they get from Point A to Point B? Make sure you have a shipping strategy in place that covers key details like:

  • Pricing. Will you offer free or discounted shipping to your customers, or pass on the exact cost to them? This is a nuanced decision that impacts many parts of your business, so it’s important to run the numbers and weigh the options.
  • Packaging. Lighter packaging often means lower shipping costs, but you’ll need to balance weight with protection. Cardboard, while heavy, is more protective for many products than a poly mailer. 
  • Locations. Will you ship internationally, nationally, or just locally? The answer will depend on your products and your goals—and it can change as your business grows.

Whatever your shipping strategy, Shopify Shipping is here to help with negotiated rates with USPS, UPS, and DHL in the US, and Canada Post in Canada.

Hiring help for your business

If you don’t have the time or skill to DIY everything you need for your business, hire help. You can find a virtual assistant for ongoing, routine tasks, or work with an expert for more involved projects, like creating your website or your marketing plan.

Managing your workload

Once you have a good understanding of what needs to happen and who will be completing the work, it’s time to add a bit of project management to make your life easier. Consider using a time management tool like Trello or Asana to write down, assign, and track tasks. Time management tools are especially helpful for keeping teams on schedule, but don’t underestimate the value of structure for yourself as well.

13. Launch your business

You’re ready to take the last step in starting a business: launching. The preparation you’ve already done has laid a solid foundation to support your launch, so you can focus on marketing activities and making your first sale. However, a plan of attack, especially as you’re trying to build traction, can help make your launch even more successful.

While every launch will be unique, there are some elements that can boost any business’ first few days of sales.

  • Leverage your network. Promote your store first and foremost on free channels that are already available to you, which includes your personal social media and your contacts list. Sending one-on-one emails asking for support, which can be as simple as a social share, can go a long way towards gaining traction.
  • Consider offering discounts. Rewarding early customers with a discount code that fits with your profit margins can help you get traction early on, especially when your store is new and may not have many customer reviews or social proof points.
  • Test paid ads. Even if you start with a small budget, paid ads can be one of the most effective ways to get in front of your ideal audience. Testing early and learning from your results can help you drive your first few sales and optimize your ad performance as you scale.

Start a business and make an impact

Starting a business isn’t easy, but it also doesn’t have to be daunting. Whether you want to bring a product into the world to solve a problem you’re having, build a profitable business to be self-employed, create opportunities for the people around you, or bring in some extra money every month, these steps can help you make your dreams a reality.

Essential Outerwear: 7 Jacket Styles No Gentleman Should Be Without

A new jacket: surely the most exciting sartorial purchase a man can make. We’re not quite sure why but as far as new clothes go, nothing else quite compares. Well, a luxury watch or a pair of British-made shoes come close, but there’s something extra special about picking up a brand new outer layer to see you through the cooler months in style.

Still, there’s an enormous wealth of variety out there. Meaning picking a design that will keep you warm, looking great and retain its cool factor for decades to come can be tricky. But there are a select few tasteful top layers that really can tick each one of those boxes and more. Think of them as a sort of jacket capsule collection. The essentials. The key styles no modern man should be without.

With this considered, these are the seven cool jackets Ape believes every stylish man should have at his disposal.

The Bomber Jacket

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Those with even the faintest passing interest in menswear will be well aware that men’s fashion has long taken its cues from the military. Unsurprisingly, the bomber jacket is no exception to this rule.

The style was first used by European Air Forces during the 1950s and 1960s. It was a result of advancements in aeronautical technology that meant planes could fly much higher and therefore conditions in the cockpit became much colder. The cropped length and lack of a collar were to allow a parachute harness to fit more comfortably, while the orange lining was designed to catch attention from the ground in the event of an incident.

These days the bomber jacket is more commonly worn for its stylish looks than its functionality. The silhouette was championed by various youth subcultures during the 1970s and 1980s, but today you should pair one with slim-fit denim, a roll neck and minimalist sneakers for best results.

The Harrington Jacket

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The Harrington jacket is a pop culture icon steeped in a rich British heritage – something that makes it an absolute must in every man’s rotation. Popularised by stars of the fifties, such as Elvis Presley and James Dean, this simple workwear design quickly became the hottest new thing in menswear.

It all began in Manchester with a company called Baracuta, which first designed the Harrington jacket back in the 1930s. It was lightweight, water resistant and featured a fashionable cropped length and stand collar. Before long the brand began exporting its garments to the United States, and when one was worn by Elvis in the 1954 film King Creole the style really took off. That first jacket was the Baracuta G9 – and it’s a style that’s still in production today.

Later on, the Harrington became popular with subcultures including the mods and the skinheads, regularly accompanied by a Ben Sherman or Fred Perry shirt.

In terms of styling, a black Harrington lends itself nicely to a white T-shirt, black jeans and a pair of Chelsea boots to give a nod to its rebellious, rock ‘n’ roll roots.

The Motorcycle Jacket

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It’s a common misconception that you need to have slicked-back hair and a cigarette perpetually dangling from the corner of your mouth in order to effectively carry off a leather jacket. However, so long as it’s worn with unabashed confidence, almost anyone can nail it.

The motorcycle jacket became a menswear icon after Marlon Brando donned a classic Schott Perfecto in the seminal 1953 movie The Wild One. Following its big-screen debut, it became a symbol of rebellion and masculinity, being picked up by rock and punk royalty over the course of the decades that followed.

Still, pulling a leather motorcycle jacket off today doesn’t have to mean dressing like the fifth member of The Ramones. Avoid looking like you’re going to a Grease fancy dress party by balancing it out with cream-coloured knitwear, raw denim and a pair of brown desert boots. Or even white trainers.

The Down Jacket

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When the mercury begins to plummet, keeping warm is key. But that doesn’t have to mean reaching for an arctic parka. With a quality down jacket in your wardrobe, you can stay insulated and looking sharp without having to dress for the North Pole.

This jacket’s effectiveness in battling the chill lies in its unique design. Utilising feathery “down” insulation between two layers of fabric, the result is a garment which traps heat so the wearer remains warm inside, even on the frostiest of days.

When it comes to choosing the right option, avoid anything that looks like it came from the props department of Kevin and Perry Go Large. Instead, opt for a lightweight, streamlined cut that’s trim but without sacrificing any fill power (that’s the density of the insulation, for the uninitiated). In terms of styling, throw it on over a knitted roll neck, chinos and chukka boots. Or on the iciest of days, use it as an underlayer along with a wool overcoat.

The Chore Jacket

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Staying warm and looking good simultaneously needn’t be a chore. Well, not when you have one of these workwear classics hanging up in your wardrobe, that is. The chore jacket is rugged, durable, timeless and versatile. In other words: everything you want from a good piece of outerwear.

The chore jacket was designed in the early 20th century for manual workers as a means of keeping warm and dry. In those early days, the preferred materials were either heavy duck canvas or denim. Cuts were generally loose too, allowing for freedom of movement and alterations to be made more easily.

These days the chore jacket still exists in something close to its original form, although the style varies depending on which brand or designer you choose to shop with. The main differences being slimmer cuts, premium materials and other modern details.

The Technical Jacket

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The likelihood of finding yourself stranded on the north face of K2 while nipping out on your lunch break is highly unlikely. But if it were to happen it’d be nice to know that your outerwear is up to the job. That’s where the technical jacket comes in.

These high-tech waterproofs are designed with the elements in mind, but don’t let that put you off. While once upon a time functionality came at the sacrifice of styling, it’s now a very different story thanks in part to the rise of athleisure.

Today, there are a number of labels producing high-quality technical jackets that wouldn’t look out of place on a Fashion Week runway. Brand’s like Arc’teryx Veilance, Nike ACG and Stone Island produce some of the slickest-looking outerwear on the market, and it’s more than capable of giving the likes of Patagonia and The North Face a run for their money in the performance stakes.

The Overshirt

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The rocky middle ground that separates summer and winter is notoriously difficult to navigate. Step out in a thick coat and you can guarantee it’ll be 20 degrees come lunch time. Leave home in a T-shirt and the temperature will no doubt plummet before you even reach the office. The answer? A simple transitional layer that falls somewhere in the middle.

An overshirt is the perfect garment for the job. It’s light, it’s simple and it’s ideal for layering up or down depending on what the weather decides to do from hour to hour. It’s a seriously versatile piece of kit and an absolute must in any man’s fall arsenal.

Wear it on warmer days over a tee with cropped wool trousers and a pair of Derby boots. Or layer it with a more substantial coat or waterproof when things turn sour. This is a garment you can wear year-round – so if it’s value for money you’re after then look no further.

 

Introduction to Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. As a result, the merchant never sees or handles the product.

The biggest difference between dropshipping and the standard retail model is that the selling merchant doesn’t stock or own inventory. Instead, the merchant purchases inventory as needed from a third party – usually a wholesaler or manufacturer – to fulfill orders.

Benefits

Less Capital Is Required – Probably the biggest advantage to dropshipping is that it’s possible to launch an ecommerce store without having to invest thousands of dollars in inventory up front. Traditionally, retailers have had to tie up huge amounts of capital purchasing inventory.  

With the dropshipping model, you don’t have to purchase a product unless you already made the sale and have been paid by the customer. Without major up-front inventory investments, it’s possible to start a successful dropshipping business with very little money. 

Easy to Get Started – Running an ecommerce business is much easier when you don’t have to deal with physical products. With dropshipping, you don’t have to worry about:

  • Managing or paying for a warehouse
  • Packing and shipping your orders
  • Tracking inventory for accounting reasons
  • Handling returns and inbound shipments
  • Continually ordering products and managing stock level

Low Overhead – Because you don’t have to deal with purchasing inventory or managing a warehouse, your overhead expenses are quite low. In fact, many successful dropshipping businesses are run from a home office with a laptop for less than $100 per month. As you grow, these expenses will likely increase but will still be low compared to those of traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.  

Flexible Location – A dropshipping business can be run from just about anywhere with an internet connection. As long as you can communicate with suppliers and customers easily, you can run and manage your business.

Wide Selection of Products – Because you don’t have to pre-purchase the items you sell, you can offer an array of products to your potential customers. If suppliers stock an item, you can list if for sale on your website at no additional cost.

Easy to Scale – With a traditional business, if you receive three times as much business you’ll usually need to do three times as much work.  By leveraging dropshipping suppliers, most of the work to process additional orders will be borne by the suppliers, allowing you to expand with fewer growing pains and less incremental work.  Sales growth will always bring additional work – especially related to customer service – but business that utilize dropshipping scale particularly well relative to traditional ecommerce businesses.  

All these benefits make dropshipping a very attractive model to both beginning and established merchants. Unfortunately, dropshipping isn’t all roses and rainbows. All this convenience and flexibility comes at a price.

Disadvantages

Low Margins – Low margins are the biggest disadvantage to operating in a highly competitive dropshipping niche. Because it’s so easy to get started – and the overhead costs are so minimal – many merchants will set up shop and sell items at rock-bottom prices in an attempt to grow revenue. They’ve invested so little in getting the business started so they can afford to operate on minuscule margins.  

True, these merchants often have low-quality websites and poor (if any) customer service. But that won’t stop customers from comparing their prices to yours. This increase in cutthroat competition will quickly destroy the profit margin in a niche. Fortunately, you can do a lot to mitigate this problem by selecting a niche that’s well suited for dropshipping. We’ll discuss this more in Chapter 4.

Inventory Issues – If you stock all your own items, it’s relatively simple to keep track of which items are in and out of stock. But when you’re sourcing from multiple warehouses, which are also fulfilling orders for other merchants, inventory changes on a daily basis. While there are ways you can better sync your store’s inventory with your suppliers’, these solutions don’t always work seamlessly, and suppliers don’t always support the technology required.  

Shipping Complexities – If you work with multiple suppliers – as most drop shippers do – the products on your website will be sourced through a number of different drop shippers. This complicates your shipping costs.

Let’s say a customer places an order for three items, all of which are available only from separate suppliers. You’ll incur three separate shipping charges for sending each item to the customer, but it’s probably not wise to pass this charge along to the customer, as they’ll think you’re grossly overcharging for shipping! And even if you did want to pass these charges along, automating these calculations can be difficult.

Supplier Errors – Have you ever been blamed for something that wasn’t your fault, but you had to accept responsibility for the mistake anyway? 

Even the best dropshipping suppliers make mistakes fulfilling orders – mistakes for which you have to take responsibility and apologize. And mediocre and low-quality suppliers will cause endless frustration with missing items, botched shipments and low-quality packing, which can damage your business’s reputation.    

Is It Worth It?

As we initially warned, dropshipping isn’t a perfect, stress-free way to build a successful business. The model has some definite advantages but comes with a number of built-in complexities and problems you’ll need to be able to address.  

We’ll be examining these problems – and how to best address them – in future chapters. The good news is that with some careful planning and consideration, most of these problems can be resolved and need not prevent you from building a thriving, profitable dropshipping business.

Why you should quit the 9 to 5

A bit of history on the 9 to 5

Now, the idea of working 9 to 5 was not a concept created by Dolly Parton but an idea that came about at the turn of the previous century. It was a revolutionary idea, for its time, and involved cutting back on excessive hours at a time when people were working 16-hour days, or 100 hours a week, in factories in the 1890s (the 9 to 5 doesn’t sound so bad now, eh?).

So what’s happened since then?

Well, at least half of managers actually work more than those 40 hours a week, while 4 in 10 say that their hours have increased in the last few years (Source).

There are many more working mums, and many more families with two working parents.

Technology has made it easy to work anytime, anyplace. There are two sides to this: on the one hand, it means that you’re expected to be ‘always on’ and to work into the evenings, weekends and holidays; on the other hand, it means that you don’t need to be in the office all the time and you can work more flexibly. Surveys have found that 4 out of 5 office workers check their work email after leaving the office and 1 in 3 log on before even getting out of bed (Source), while 54% of commuters are sending work emails en route to and from the office (Source).

Bizarrely, this isn’t what we thought would happen. Or, at least, it’s not what John Maynard Keynes thought would happen. In 1930, Keynes predicted that technology would allow us to cut our working week down to just 15 hours as our material needs were satisfied. (Tim Ferriss, of course, would have us work just 4 hours a week.)

So why are we working so hard?

Well, for one thing, there are a lot of good things that come with a corporate job: promotions and salary increases, the prestige of working for a big-name brand, not to mention the office parties and socialising with colleagues.

Another reason is that we’ve been socialised to this way of ‘life’. It’s perfectly normal and expected that people hate Mondays, that they live for weekends and that work is work and it’s not meant to be fun.

Of course, there are also many who have no choice but to work long hours for little pay.

So what’s the problem with the 9 to 5?

Let’s start from the perspective of the company, or even the overall economy: working long hours in an office in no way guarantees productivity. A lot of time is wasted at work with all the distractions that happen in an office environment; we all have different natural rhythms, from early birds to night owls; and, in fact, our brains can’t even focus on tasks for more than a few hours at a time anyway, or maybe even for more than 20 minutes. Modern research suggests that the average employee works productively for just two hours and 53 minutes in an eight-hour day. *Ahem!*

Despite those stats, people are ‘working’ longer hours as they’re ‘always on’ and never really taking a proper break. Successful corporate managers and directors have plenty of money but no time to spend it. They’ll buy luxury holidays, snazzy cars and big houses with hefty mortgages to make them feel better. Of course, those same purchases then lock them into this way of life and keep them in their corporate 9 to 5 so that they can afford the lifestyle that they’re so used to by now.

The health risks of working those longer hours have been widely reported. Almost 60 per cent of adults are drinking alcohol to cope with the stresses of everyday life while 38 per cent drink to forget their problems (Source). In the UK, half a million people now suffer from work-related stress (Source). Burnout has become ‘a sinister and insidious epidemic’ and, although it’s a subjective term, it usually manifests as exhaustion and irritability, disinterest, a lack of empathy, poor performance at work, and family issues and relationships problems at home. Medication, vacation – these provide only temporary relief.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are countless lost souls wandering the corridors, people who are “okay”, “fine”. These are the people who are under-challenged, just as there are many who are over-challenged. They spend 10 to 15 years climbing the corporate ladder, reach the top and then ask, “Now what?” They’re surprised and disappointed to find that it doesn’t really bring any meaningful reward and, if anything, simply means working harder for the next step, if there is one.

And yet no one ever says, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office”. Instead of that, the top five regrets of the dying include “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard,” “I wish that I had let myself be happier,” and in the number one spot my personal favourite: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

What’s the alternative?

Working in the “corporate 9 to 5”, for me, involves:

  • working in a private corporation, the primary motivation of which is profit and in which you are a small part of a big machine;
  • working in an office-type environment;
  • reporting to a more senior manager (your boss);
  • working standard hours of Monday to Friday, the so-called ‘9 to 5’; and
  • receiving a regular monthly salary and other benefits such as insurance and a pension.

So alternatives to this type of job could include working in a different type of company or organisation, with different motivations; working at home or in a different environment; working for yourself or for a number of different clients; working more flexible hours; and no longer receiving a regular salary and benefits.

Of course, there’s no one alternative, no single schedule or set-up, that works for everyone – but that’s the whole point! You can create your own schedule, based on your own definition of success, your most important values, and your personal situation.

Having said that, most of us – no, not just those pesky Millennials! – want flexibility; we want to be able to manage work alongside our family priorities; and we want to feel like we’re doing something meaningful, that’s making a difference in the world. Running your own business allows you to do all those things (and more).

And the good news is that there are more opportunities than ever to work flexibly and remotely; there are more tools and resources available than ever before to allow you to start and grow a business without a massive investment; and there is more information and support available than ever too, in the form of online courses, business coaches and programmes to guide you through the process.

In fact, the reasons that a lot of people will cite for staying in their corporate 9 to 5 – perceived job security in a large company, a comfortable retirement and generous pension, and so on – no longer really apply. There’s no such thing anymore as a job or even a career for life; even the most established companies have had to let people go; and the way in which our parents and grandparents structured their lives and careers just isn’t going to work anymore.

Leaving the corporate 9 to 5

So, what’s next? If all this resonates with you, if you agree with me and you decide that your corporate 9 to 5 is no longer where you want to be; if you’re open to considering the alternatives; and if you’re willing to put in the hard work to make your alternative happen – then I have three invitations to extend to you!

First, you can join the waiting list for my book, Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5: Stories from people who’ve done it (and how you can too), which is coming out very, very soon. My hope is that it will serve as an inspiration as you explore 50 different stories of career transitions with all their challenges and invaluable advice that they want to extend to you, along with concrete steps that you can take to create your own career transition story.

Second, and in the meantime, I’d love to have you join the One Step Outside Facebook group, where you’ll find like-minded people who are looking to redefine what ‘success’ means and get access to free training sessions, Q&As and all sorts of resources and tips to help you through the transition.

And, third, If you’re serious about embarking on this transition yourself, then book a discovery call with me to discuss how I can support you, either individually or in a group setting, to transition out of your 9 to 5 and into your ideal business.

Of course, quitting your job is no panacea, and starting your own business will be hard work (not to mention working out what it is that you really want to do in the first place – that’s actually the hardest part!). However, this one decision has the potential to put you on a steeper learning curve; to reignite your passion for your work; and, ultimately, bring you everything you’ve ever truly wanted. Now doesn’t that sound like it’s worth a shot?