Because I wanted to make this useful and funny, this is a long article. I am telling you this now, so you that it’s useful and five billion words later, you may find it funny.
I don’t want to waste your time by telling you how it’s possible to make money online… you are here, so you already know that a lot of people are earning money online.
You from Pakistan? Then this article should really help… God willing. Because I have made it a point to study and experiment with online businesses for the last 10 years almost (I was once compared to Pat Flynn – I then basked in the glory of being compared… for the next 3 years… while he kept working harder).
In my experiments, adventures and ventures, I discovered that there are a few and slight differences in the way Pakistanis work online, compared to the rest of the world.
Yes, I said few and slight. The concept of geography is still very much new to the medium of the Internet (WONDERFUL!), but due to some cultural nuances (I’m a student of Sociology because I wanted to understand Psychology), some things are done differently in Pakistan.
Also, due to some very basic – and to most foreigners, outright ridiculous infrastructure problems very much unique to Pakistan, this will make all the more sense to you, if:
- you are from Pakistan,
- you want to start an online business,
- you are willing to learn, and most importantly,
- you don’t crib and talk crap all the time about how bad Pakistanis are…i.e. you’re not extremely biased (if you are slightly biased, I can fix you in the next few paragraphs… by actually writing something useful for you without charging any money for it, for example…or it won’t matter when you are out there making some money. InshAllah.).
If you are reading this and you are already earning money online, some of the information here may seem very basic to you.
If you are learning
- how to make money,
- and how to use the internet, especially in a country like Pakistan,
- to earn honest, ethical money…
…then you are in for one heck of a ride!
InshAllah, by the end of this list, you will have a long list of your own ideas.
But before you know the ideas and you start implementing them (instead of just dreaming about implementing them), we need to be on the same page.
We need to understand few basics. The BBF’s as I call them (Boring But Fundamental).
You ready to learn and earn? InshAllah.
Here we go…
The Basics of Business
A business is born not when you:
- Rent (or God Forbid, BUY) an office.
- Print out business cards
- Dry clean and ready the suit with the RehmanMalik-esque tie.
That’s not business. That may look like a business to many of your friends, to your family… even sometimes to you.
But not to me. Not to my teachers. We are here to call you out when you are in the wrong, my friend…but it’s a lot easier to repeat the right thing instead of point out the wrong one (like: instead of helping you pick colors, just saying hey, don’t wear ties).
So, the right definition of business is when…
…a transaction takes place where you offer a solution to someone’s problem, and charge money for it.
A transaction where you deliver the solution – in the form of a product or a service – and you receive payment – in the form of cash or kind. That’s it.
Someone tells you “I am self-employed”, or “I do my own business”, or says “my own business” when you ask, “so what do you do?”… DO NOT ASK “so where’s your office?”, instead ask, “so what do you sell, and how does that help others?”
This question alone should keep you in check when starting an online business (and will make you look like this mean, expert person on all things business).
Because one of the biggest problem I see when I meet would-be online entrepreneurs – may they be from Pakistan or other parts of the world – is this lack of a “tangible thing to sell”.
I once gave a small talk on blogging, at the Plan 9 Tech Incubator program, here at the fantastic Arfa STP tower. Before the talk, I was talking to one of the finalists of the first round…his team had qualified the first round in the business plan competition. I asked him, “so what product are you selling?”… he sheepishly smiled. He didn’t have a product yet. He then laughed out loud, mentioned how Twitter never had a business model, and then we sipped tea in awkward silence. Moving on…
Point is: we may think something is a business, but as it turns out, it is not. Same with activities that we think are good for business. But they are not.
How can we tell which activity to do?
What To Do In Your Online Business?
The most useful definition of any business activity was put forth by Peter Drucker.
Business does two things: Innovation and Marketing.
So, as a business, you are:
- either creating something (innovation), or
- you are marketing it (selling it, generating awareness, nurturing a community, setting up the distribution network… with the aim of selling the product to that audience).
Please note, the definition of a useful business activity did not include bashing your cricket team on Facebook… nor did it include discussing some albeit important concept of Islam. Also, discussing Politics and the color of Rehman Malik’s tie, or Imran Khan’s muffler, can hardly pass for “building your community”.
So, what are the ideas that you can start online? How can you make money online?
Step 1: Find a Problem to Solve
Nowhere did I say, “find a problem to solve on the Internet“. No.
In fact, this wouldn’t involve the Internet, not yet… not if you know what a Google Keyword Tool looks like, which you probably don’t and that’s OK.
We find a problem to solve.
The easiest problem to solve for others, is the problem you’ve already solved for yourself.
For example, by God’s Grace, I started (and later sold) a profitable dairy farm here in Pakistan. Starting any business is a problem, right? So starting a dairy farm from scratch was a bigger problem for someone like me, who is not from a rural background and had to learn the jargon the hard way.
So when I had solved the problem of starting a decent, system-based dairy farm, Alhumdulillah, I figured others also would face this problem. I had solved this problem for myself. So I shared the solution in the form of a lengthy article… people found that really helpful.
I then went on to write a premium digital guide on starting a profitable dairy farm. And that still sells Alhumdulillah.
I managed to start a business online, I managed to make thousands of dollars (or lacs of rupees)… all online, all from the supposed comfort of my home here in Lahore. Alhumdulillah.
How? Selling information that was solving a very well defined pain point for others… a pain point that I personally faced that I solved by God’s Grace.
Problems Are Almost-Opportunities
And guess what, you’re in luck, for we Pakistanis have – so we claim – a lot of problems (*sigh*).
Those problems are one step away from being an opportunity… do you see how?
There is a lot of load shedding… that’s a problem. How does that become an opportunity for you?
You can sell them generators. Or UPS. How about if you sell them glow-in-the-dark cards so they can play rangg for the one hour the light is gone?
Or maybe LED-enabled Ludo? I am only being half-funny.
Any problem is one step way from being converted into an opportunity.
Finding a problem that you:
- really, truly care about, and
- you are interested enough in the admin side, the mechanics of it, to come up with a viable solution…
…is really hard.
When I say “care about”, I mean that you have a clear stake in the problem. You are being hurt by the problem… therefore you are the right man (or woman) for the job to FIX it. You are a stakeholder in the equation.
And you also need to be interested in the admin side of the Problem.
Finding good Chinese food is a problem for me, if I have the money to spend on an outing… and being an avid eater of Chinese food, I may think that I can easily open a Chinese Restaurant in Y Block Defence, and make millions and at the same time, help people eat good Chinese food. Right?
Of course NOT! I need to be very interested in LEARNING the admin side, the mechanics of running a restaurant, which has NOTHING to do with my problem of finding good chinese food in Lahore.
So, re-read the (a) and (b) points above.
The Problem Problem
Now, finding a good problem to start a business… that in itself is a problem. A meta problem!
That’s part of the reason why I help people convert their hobbies into a business. Why? Because having a hobby means that there is a higher chance – still not a guarantee though – that you pass the (a) and especially the (b) part of the above points.
So now you have a problem. That’s great!
Let’s solve it using the Internet!
Step 2: Start an Online Magazine DEVOTED to That Topic.
I said “an Online Magazine”… what I really wanted to say was, “start a blog”. But starting a blog immediately gets everyone to think about Google Adsense.
For some reasons, Pakistanis who know what a blog is, want to simply know more about earning money through Google Adsense. Whereas earning money through Adsense is not even chump change anymore.
You need to FIRE GOOGLE from your workforce… and listen to this: even Google tells you to use Google Adsense as a “supplement” to your main source of income.
Adsense works, but you’re better off focusing on starting a business based on something you sell… rather than creating an online property with the sole intention of sending your traffic to some place else!!
If you are starting out, do not worry about Google Adsense… and if someone says, “you should really put up ads from Google Adsense on your site,” reply back with an intelligent-sounding answer like, “I will do that in the upcoming Quarter of my overall 3 year plan for growth, thanks for the input though.”
Starting a blog means you:
- create content based around the problem
- you offer the solution to establish your credibility and trust.
If you are going to work on creating a magazine, you are going to create