How to use your personal influence to start an online business

Written by Vadrine Boulle

If you’ve been thinking about your next career move or have been interested in starting your own business, the online world is rife with opportunity. 

And unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island for the past decade, you’ve heard the term “influencer”. For the person who isn’t an avid social media user, the image that comes to mind is likely of the gorgeous instagram models who have amassed thousands of loyal followers to whom they sell their merchandise and partner up with brands for endorsements. 

To the casual scroller, the word tends to have a cringey association, it might even induce an eye roll or two.  

But let me ask you this: 

  • Do you have a favourite recipe blog? The one you go to when you need an easy meal in the middle of the week? 
  • Do you have a style icon who you love, whose page you follow because they always know how to dress for any occasion? 
  • Do you have a motivational speaker or coach who is so down to earth and whose work moves you to take action every time you hear them in a Linkedin video?

What do all these people have in common? From the Instagram model to the TedX speaker, they all have the power to influence

This article is going to bust some common myths about the elusive ‘influencer’ and show you how you too can use this modern form of marketing to start your own online business without needing thousands of followers and a massive budget all while remaining in alignment with your values. 

What does it actually mean to use the power of your influence?

Becoming a person, business or brand with the power to influence simply means being able to use social media strategies to connect with an audience and convince them to invest in what you have to offer. 

Whether it’s through a personal brand or through starting an online business for products or services, influencing is all about sharing your knowledge and skills with those who would benefit from them. It’s about establishing yourself as an authority to your audience, no matter how big or small they might be, so they trust you enough to buy from you.

Let’s start by demystifying some common misconceptions about the ‘influencer’ model of business.

It’s vapid and salesy, and lacking authenticity.

This is what a lot of cold marketing has made us fear. That selling online is icky and salesy and void of human connection. But the truth is that becoming an influencer is about sharing your expertise, your knowledge, your skills so you can actually help people. 

To change people’s lives, you can use your influence by creating a mixture of educational, inspirational and aspirational content on social media that speaks the truth about your product or service and genuinely changes people’s lives. 

Promoting what you have to offer can be genuine. If you believe you have a solution that can solve people’s problems, you can amplify your voice by becoming a person of ‘influence’. 

It relies on vanity metrics such as likes and followers.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. You do not need thousands of followers or to keep track of vanity metrics such as likes to earn a living from a legitimate online business. 

You only need to influence a handful of the right people, ie. your ideal clients, to make a living online. Quality over quantity is the key. 

It’s not as legitimate and not as ‘real’ as an offline business.

Starting an online business and embracing the influencer model, when done authentically and organically, utilizes the exact same principles as starting any offline business. 

Of course, the principles and the action steps we use in the ‘traditional’ space are converted into the online equivalent but an online business that uses the influencer model is no less legitimate than any offline business that uses advertising, marketing, and business growth strategies.

If you’re still skeptical, think of it this way: Even your favorite brands that existed before the online world used the power of influence to sell their products - from endorsements in magazines to ads on TV to promoting celebrities on billboards. The platforms changed, but the idea is still the same. 

So, how can you start an online business and become a person of influence?

  1. Develop your first idea and customer: The first element of starting your own business (online or offline) is about coming up with your business idea and understanding who this offer is for. 
  2. Share your influence (knowledge, skills, expertise)! Once you’ve crystalized this idea and you believe wholeheartedly that it’s something people need, you then share your knowledge, skills, and expertise, to impact and influence people so that they are led to change their lives for the better by investing in what you have to offer. 
  3. Align your solution with your customer’s needs. You’ll want to use your experience and your voice to influence people’s lives through your business, hitting your ideal customer’s pain points and then offering them a solution that is your product or service. 

Still skeptical about starting your own business? If you’re an unemployed international living in the Netherlands, you’re eligible for free coaching with Empower Amsterdam. One of our coaches can help you get clarity on whether starting a business or being a person of influence could be your next career step! Apply on our contact page.