How to Start a Business from NOTHING in 2021

In Business Services

How to Start a Business from NOTHING in 2021 - read the full article about Business Services 2021, Business Services and Consulting & Business support from Ali Abdaal on Qualified.One
Ali Abdaal
Youtube Blogger

- So the other day, I had a bunch of stuff stolen from my car, including my Mac book, iPad, cameras, microphones, and a bunch of other things.

And it got me thinking that if I genuinely lost everything like my YouTube channel and my team and all of the dollar in the business bank account and all of the gear, and potentially even all the skills that I have, how would I get started rebuilding things from the ground up? Would I start a YouTube channel or a blog or a business, or even a TikTok account, by the way, please follow me on TikTok.

And so this video is gonna be my step-by-step guide to how I would actually build wealth and passive income and an audience, all that fun stuff from the ground up if I had to start from scratch.

Lets start by talking about three foundational principles of building this sort of stuff from scratch and then well have the five, I think steps that build on top of that.

Principle number one is to build in public in a way that helps build an audience.

Now, having an audience, having an audience of people who know, like and trust you, whether its people on YouTube or TikTok or Twitter or your email list, thats like a generally useful thing because when you have these people who know, like, and trust you, it means you can then monetize that audience further down the line if you really want to.

But it also means that you have like more friends and a network and connections thats just generally nice and wholesome and friendly.

And the best way of building an audience is to provide value to those people.

The problem is that providing value is a bit like nebulous.

Like what does providing value even mean? And how do you figure out what kind of value you provide? And so an easy way to build the right sort of audience is to like, when youre starting from scratch and building your thing, to build it in public i.e to document the journey of building your thing.

And so if I were to start any new business from scratch or YouTube channel or a blog or a book, or of any kind of venture, I would be documenting the process and like writing down or maybe even making YouTube videos or blog posts about what its like to do that, what resources Im using, what interesting things Ive learned.

Every time I read a book that helps me with my business, I would be summarising the key insights from that book that really helped me and putting it out for free out there on a blog, and then sharing the link on Twitter or my Facebook page or my Instagram page or anything that helps get the word out that, hey, this is me, Im building in public and you can follow along for the journey if you like.

That leads us on to principle number two, which is to provide value first and do not expect quick returns.

Lets hear from one of my mentors from afar, Gary Vaynerchuk on this point.

- I was very focused on levelling up and I really believe the one great piece of advice, if you wanna take anything from this talk is we have to start realising that giving and doing things in business without expectation of return from the other individual is probably the greatest leverage that you could ever deploy in your business life, though it is extremely rare in todays business environment and it has absolutely been the bedrock of what has allowed me to win.

- And so what Gary is saying here basically is that provide value without the expectation of anything in return.

And so while building my business, Id be providing value as were gonna talk about in the steps, but Id also be building in public, documenting my journey and all of this would be without the expectation of anything in return.

I would not be trying to sell anything to my audience.

I wouldnt be trying overly hard to be pushy and get them to sign up to my mailing list.

I would be creating this value, creating this content without the expectation of anything in return.

And weirdly by doing that as a side effect, Im gonna build up an audience of people who know, like and trust me alongside.

And principle number three, is that whatever Im doing, I wanna target a market thats filled with people that I actually care about.

So for example, if it was me the market Id be targeting is YouTubers, creators, bloggers, these sort of like creative entrepreneurial type of people on the internet.

And Id be trying my best to build a business around that specific audience.

I wouldnt particularly try and build a business for new mums because I have no experience of what its like being a new mum, but Ive got friends who are new moms who are very, very familiar with the audience who love hanging out with new moms.

And therefore it would make sense for them to build a business around that particular audience.

And theres a really nice quote from Steve Jobs, where he talks about this idea of passion.

- People say you have to have a lot of passion for what youre doing and its totally true.

And the reason is because its so hard that if you dont, any rational person would give up.

Its really hard and you have to do it over a sustained period of time.

So if you dont love it, if youre not having fun doing it, you dont really love it, youre gonna give up.

- And then our late friend, Steve goes on to say that if you look at anyone whos kind of successful by societys definitions, normally they found a way to enjoy the thing that theyre doing and they loved it so much and that was what allowed them to persevere.

And so coming back to this idea of building a business from scratch, one way to increase our odds of enjoying the thing that were doing is to target the right sort of audience, to build a business for the people that we already care about rather than for a completely new audience, that we have no empathy or enjoyment with.

So those were the three foundational principles, lets now get into the five kind of actionableish practical steps that I would take if I was starting from scratch.

Step one is that I would learn a monetizable skill that helps the people that I care about.

In my case, the people that I care about would be creators, YouTubers, bloggers, those sorts of people, probably YouTubers given that I have so much familiarity with that space and I can empathise with the needs of them.

And I enjoy hanging out with YouTubers and theyre just like cool people generally.

And so Id be trying to learn a skill that can help YouTubers.

Now, what are the skills that can help YouTubers? Well the first one is video editing.

Every YouTuber beyond a certain size needs help with their video editing.

And so if you can provide them a service as a video editor for their videos, you can make friends with that YouTuber, make friends with their network.

And thats a way of building a business around this idea of creators.

Secondly, every YouTuber needs thumbnails.

If youre into graphic design, you can become a thumbnail artist.

Thirdly, a lot of YouTubers need their stuff on YouTube converted into blog posts its something that I do for my websites, its something that my friend Thomas Frank does as well.

A lot of YouTubers know they should be doing this, but theres no one out there who says to them, hey, look, I will literally write up all your videos as a blog post for your website and this will be really great for your SEO and that kind of stuff.

Fourthly, a lot of YouTubers want their stuff written up as Twitter threads so they can grow on Twitter.

Again, no one really provides the service, so if you can be the person providing that service to YouTube i.e a skill that is monetizable then youre adding a lot of value leading with value, and youre building a business around this niche of YouTubers or creators that you personally care about.

And so if it were me and I didnt know how to edit videos, what I would do is I would get a part-time job and Id be saving up about 700 pounds to get a secondhand MacBook.

And then I would learn how to edit videos on iMovie by following either my Skillshare class, which you can access for free in the video description or by following free YouTube tutorials.

And then over a few by doing this a few hours a day, Id get pretty solid at video editing and then Id be able to move on to step two.

So step two is that once you figured out what this market is that you care about, who are these people that you wanna be friends with? Step two is to work for them for free, without permission and while documenting the journey.

And I think its the for free part here thats crucial because if I was just starting learning video editing and I wasnt that good and I didnt have a portfolio and it didnt have a track record, I couldnt really approach a YouTuber and say, hey, I want you to pay me to edit your videos because like, why would they take a chance on me? What I would do instead is I would email a bunch of YouTubers that I like, you know smaller YouTubers but also bigger YouTubers just in case, most of the bigger ones already have editors, but certainly Id be emailing smaller YouTubers somewhere between the 10K to 100K subscriber range.

And Id be saying to them, hey, youre a YouTuber, I love your content.

I really like something very specific about your content.

So the email or the Twitter DM or Instagram DM like speaks to them because its like, youve put some thought into this.

Its not just a copied and pasted message.

And Id be saying to them that look, I want to edit your next video for you completely for free.

All you have to do is send me a Dropbox or a Google Drive or a WeTransfer link with the raw files.

And I will create and edit for you in your style completely for free.

And you can have it and you can use it on your channel and if you like it then we can talk about maybe working with me on a paid basis, further down the line.

Now, if you do this with enough people, theres almost no way that someone isnt gonna reply to you and be like, all right, yeah, this sounds like a good idea.

Youre offering to do this for free, heres the Google Drive link to my raw footage from my latest video, lets see what you can do.

And now you have a project, youre working for free, and if someone has given you the chance where youve got the ability to actually edit their video in as best a way as you can.

Now, video editing does require permission.

You do need to email someone and ask them to send you their raw files because most YouTubers dont like publicise their raw files, but there are things that you can do completely without permission as well.

One of those things is creating thumbnails.

So you can find a YouTuber or a bunch of YouTubers channels that you like, and you can redesign the thumbnails for them based on what their current style is and you can email them being like, hey, heres some thumbnails I designed.

These might be an alternative to these sorts of thumbnails.

I think they would work better than the current thumbnails youve got because of reasons, A, B and C.

And Ive had two people in the past four years, reach out to me that way by physically redesigning thumbnails of my stuff and saying, hey, why dont you try out these new thumbnails.

In both occasions, I was like, oh, okay, this person has gone through the effort of already doing the work for me.

And so I just ran A/B tests using TubeBuddy, which lets you test thumbnails.

In the end it turned out that those two people, their thumbnails were worse than my ones were anyway, but the principal was good.

Like I really respect the hustle of them emailing me with the work already done.

So it was very easy for me to say yes to, and now if youre a thumbnail designer, you can do this with basically any YouTuber.

YouTubers are always on the lookout for like what is the best thumbnail for my video.

And so if someone does the work for them and you can say, hey, you can use TubeBuddy to A/B test it.

Link to TubeBuddy in the video description, if you wanna check it out, free trial, et cetera, et cetera.

They can literally test the thumbnail and see if it performs better.

And that is the ultimate way of testing are your skills as a thumbnail designer good enough and if not, you can just improve those skills over time.

Equally, lets say you wanna be a writer and create Twitter threads for people.

You can reach out to your favourite YouTuber and say, hey, this video that you made about like eight habits of being a millionaire, Ive actually converted that into a tweet thread for you that you can just copy and paste onto Twitter and then thatll help you grow your Twitter audience.

What do you think? If you like it let me know and we can talk about potentially working together further down the line.

These are ways that you can work for the people you care about, in my case YouTubers, without asking them necessarily for permission and you can do it for free to get your foot in the door.

And then of course, while doing all this, Id be documenting the journey.

Id be having my own YouTube channel where I talk about, all right, guys, Ive just sent 18 emails today to my favourite YouTubers.

Lets see who responds.

Oh my God, this person responded, all right time to edit that video.

Id be documenting the journey.

And if starting a YouTube channel is too hard, I just do it through the form of a blog and Twitter threads and stuff like that.

And so step two, work for free for your favourite people like this target market that you care about, do it without permission if you can and document your journey while doing so.

And then once weve done enough of that, we now have a portfolio.

So Id be building like a personal website using something like Ghost or Squarespace or Notion, or theres all sorts of free ways to build a website or even very cheap ways to build a website.

And now Ive got my portfolio, Ive got my showreel, Ive got examples of the Twitter threads or the website, thumbnails or graphic, whatever that I can make.

We now go into step number three, which is turning this into a paid gig.

And at this point its pretty easy to do to turn it into a paid gig because if youve got like decent samples of work and youre actually good at the thing, which you will be because youre following tutorials on the internet and improving your skills over time, and youve got decent testimonials from the people that youve worked for for free.

At this point, you can now start reaching out to those same people and say, hey, this is how much I would charge per hour if we wanted to work together, what do you think? And they probably say, yes if its reasonable and you can then reach out to other YouTubers and say, or other people in this market that you care about and offer your service for free initially, and then make like a page that has your prices and you can have different pricing plans.

And essentially you can then very easily turn this into a paid gig because your work will speak for itself.

Of course, Id be documenting the whole journey of doing that as well.

Reading books about the psychology of pricing, figuring out how to price my services for the hour, reading everything I could get my hands on about how to be a freelancer, because at this point Id be a freelancer and Id be sharing my journey.

Id be documenting the process as it went along on my blog and on my Twitter.

Then after doing this for a while, after building up some money in the bank, Id be moving on to step four, which is to productize the service.

Ive got a friend Robin Waite, whos written a really good book about this, its called "Take your Shot." And that book changed the way that I approached pricing because basically it...

Its like genuinely a very engaging story book.

And it tells a story of this golf teacher who was charging by the hour.

And then one day he gets a client who wants to learn golf, but this client happens to be a business coach and the business coach talks him through and coaches him about how he can convert his hourly pricing into a suite of products, like six lessons for X amount, or this is the outcome youre gonna get, this is the money-back guarantee.

And its just so interesting seeing how you can just transform your income basically overnight by moving from an hourly charging rate to a productized charging rate.

And so again, if I was a video editor, Id be putting together some kind of package like I dont know, four videos a month for X amount of dollars.

If I was a graphic designer, Id be doing like three thumbnails per video, four times a month or four times a week or three times a week for this amount.

If I was a writer, Id be talking about this sort of Twitter thread for this amount and here is the money-back guarantee, all of the things like that.

Read the book, "Take your Shot," its very good.

And so with me, for example, right now I do almost nothing that charges by the hour because I dont like charging by the hour, instead I think how can I turn this into a product? How can I turn it into a course? So weve got a Part-Time YouTuber Academy, which is my live online course.

People always say, like their message would be like, hey, how much do you charge for one-on-one coaching? And I always say that I dont do one-on-one coaching cause I dont believe in charging by the hour instead I believe in creating products that can then offer that same service to multiple people with a more like productized system.

And in fact, right now Im working on my own, "Productivity for Lazy People Course," which you can sign up to the mailing list follow a link in the video description.

That is taking all of my insights about productivity that Ive picked up over the last, like decade of my life and turning it into a nicely packaged course that includes my productivity system for lazy people.

So yeah, link to the mailing list in video description, if you wanna get early bird access to that at some point when it comes out.

And finally that moves us on to step five, once weve productized our services, and now weve got even more money in the bank.

At that point, Id be looking to hire people.

Id be reading books like "The E-Myth Revisited," and "Traction," and these sorts of business books that once youre a profitable business as a solo entrepreneur slash freelancer, how do you then bring other people on board, either as freelancers or part-time or even full-time, if youve got the money for that? How do you bring other people on board to help leverage your own skills and your own time? And so Im pretty confident if I were to start from scratch over the course of maybe two, three years, Id get to the point where my editing business for YouTubers or my writing business for YouTubers or my graphic design business for YouTubers, that I would get to the point where I could comfortably be able to hire people, offload some of the work from myself, leverage my own time and my own skills, and then think about building a business around it so that the results are either the videos or the graphics or the writing or whatever my thing is so that the results would be generated by the business and by the system as Michael Gerber talks about in "The E-Myth Revisited," link in the video description if you wanna check it out.

The results would be delivered by the system rather than by the individuals themselves.

And of course, throughout all five of these steps, Id be building up my own personal audience by documenting what its like to build a business for YouTubers from the ground up.

At this point, I probably have a few thousand maybe even tens of thousands of subscribers on my email list or on my Twitter.

And then if I really wanted to, I could turn it into a course about, hey, heres how I did this thing over the last three years.

Heres how I started from scratch and grew a six-figure income by video editing and heres how you can do the same.

If I wanted to, I could do that further down the line, but to be honest, at that point Id have my successful business, Id be having fun, Id be profitable.

I wouldnt really need to peddle courses to my audience in that context.

Now, if youre in the market for a monetizable skill that you can learn that would add value to a lot of different people, one thing I always recommend to people is to learn how to code.

Because coding is like such an in demand skill these days, like there is a constant shortage of software engineers, software developers.

And its like, if you know how to code to a reasonable standard, its actually not that hard to get a job where youre either working for someone else and doing coding type stuff for them, or youre building your own stuff, building your own businesses, building your own websites and using your coding knowledge to do that well.

And certainly learning how to code was how I got started on this entire journey of entrepreneurship when I was around 13 years old.

Back in the day, I used to use really crappy resources, like free stuff on the internet and random books that I would get from charity shops.

These days, there are tonnes of other better ways to learn how to code.

One of my favourites is by doing an online course over at Brilliant, who are very kindly sponsoring this video.

If you havent heard, Brilliant is a fantastic platform for online courses in maths, science and computer science.

And the courses are really great because theyre interactive, theyre friendly, theyre engaging and they make it fun to learn the thing.

And there are so many people that I know who have thought about learning how to code and done some like online course.

And its just so boring that they just never actually bring themselves to doing it.

Personally my favourite courses on Brilliant, are their computer science series.

When I was applying to med school, I was torn between med school and computer science.

And I went with medicine in the end, but I always had this kind of love of computer science and love of coding in my mind.

And so the Brilliant courses on computer algorithms and like how cryptocurrencies work are all really interesting.

So if that sounds up your street, and if you wanna level up your thinking or learn how to code or get pro at computer science head over to and the first 200 people to hit that link in the video description will get 20% off the annual premium subscription.

So summing up the journey, three principles: Principle number one, build in public, principle number two, provide value for free without the expectation of anything in return and principle number three, target the market that has the people that you already like and think you would get on with.

And then we build a five steps on top of that.

Number one, learn a monetizable skill that helps that market.

Number two, offer that service for free preferably without permission, while documenting your journey.

Number three, start charging for it.

Number four, productize your services and read the book, "Take your Shot." And number five, at that point you can hire and expand and turn this into your own business empire.

If you like this video and you wanna learn more ways of generating passive income, building business, all that kind of stuff.

Check out this video over here, which is like nine passive income ideas.

And it shows how I make $27,000 per week at the time of that recording its a little bit more now, in passive income by following these methods.

So thank you so much for watching, do hit the subscribe button if havent already, and Ill see you in the next video, bye.

Ali Abdaal: How to Start a Business from NOTHING in 2021 - Business Services