The new American Dream can be summed up in 7 words: Work from your laptop, travel the world. For self-made entrepreneur Zak Folkman, this became his reality one year after tossing law school to the side.
Nearly a decade ago, Folkman launched his first ad campaign on Facebook where he turned his last $200 into $800. “I was instantly hooked,” he recalls.
Over $100,000,000 across six different continents in online sales later, he’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in the exciting world of online business.
It’s the reason why Folkman is so heavily relied upon for his experience in the ecommerce arena by some of the biggest names in business today. He’s spoken alongside legends like Steve Wozniak (Co-Founder of Apple) and billionaire hedge fund manager Tim Draper.
Folkman offers these 6 tips to those of you looking to start your own online business, make your first sale, and turn a profit.
1. Educate Yourself
When it comes to ecommerce, and anything in life for that matter, you need to educate yourself first, so you understand how the industry works. Too many people think starting an online store is easy, and they don’t treat it like a real business. This often leads to failure, explains Folkman.
“It requires real effort and real time. You need to have consistency, dedication, and meaningful self-education if you want to succeed in this space.”
Folkman puts an emphasis on self-education, especially after racking up over $200,000 in student debt only to discover that traditional education doesn’t teach you how to generate real wealth. “I had to go out and educate myself.”
2. Start Small
Any time you start something new, like building your own online store, you can’t expect yourself to be a master from day one.
That’s why Folkman recommends you start within your comfort zone, so you can get acclimated, practice your skills, and apply your knowledge in a way where it won’t “blow up in your face and ruin your life”.
“You should expect to fail in the beginning. And that’s okay because you learn from it. The key is to set yourself up for small failures rather than big ones. Start with a simple website builder like Shopify, and only invest what you can afford into paid ads.”
3. Learn From Your Experience
By starting small and failing small, you’re in a position to learn all of the important lessons in a way that doesn’t hurt when it happens. “You can fall off a stair or you can fall off a building – there’s a big difference.”
It’s important to learn both from what’s working and what’s not working. For example, if people are responding well to your advertisements, your products, or your store, then you know you’re on the right track.
If people are responding poorly to your offers or they aren’t making purchases, you need to figure out where things went wrong because there’s always a reason for it. You need to identify these weaknesses and always be improving. “That’s what business is.”
4. Become an Expert in Every Area of Your Business
“No one is going to care about or know your business like you do.”
In his early days, Folkman was doing everything. “I was putting up the ads, I was optimizing the ads, I was making the ads, I was doing the accounting, I was collecting payments from advertisers and clients, invoicing, everything.”
This helped Folkman understand every aspect of his business from the ground up.
5. Build a Strong Team
Once you understand every area of your business, you can manage and hand each one off to other people. This is what you need to do to grow, says Folkman.
“I see too many people try to hire and outsource a position before they’ve done it themselves, so it becomes very difficult to be a good leader and manager when you don’t know what the team is supposed to be doing.”
6. Repeat and Scale Like Crazy
This one is the most fun and the best, but it can’t be there without the rest, according to Folkman. Turn your process into a repeatable system that you can scale and grow like crazy. Why? “Because nobody who’s filthy rich owns something small.”
Build new stores. Find new products. Train more people. Repeat. Continue. And scale.
The bottom line is, when it comes to the world of ecommerce and paid advertising, it’s important to have a scalable system you can rely on to grow your business.