[UPDATE 7/21/2014]: 40 Rules for Internet Business Success is now available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle e-book and audiobook formats. Click here to get your copy.

Below you’ll find an unedited chapter from my upcoming book 40 Rules for Internet Business Success. To receive updates about the book and get a free digital copy of my book in its current form, enter your email address in the sidebar to the right.

franchisesWhen you’re just starting your business, it’s very tempting to become a follower of an Internet business personality and to try to replicate their success by doing what they did. These personalities include people like Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income (www.smartpassiveincome.com), Dan Andrews of TropicalMBA (www.tropicalmba.com), Jeremy Frandsen and Jason Van Orden of Internet Business Mastery (www.internetbusinessmastery.com) and John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire (www.entrepreneuronfire.com). They have had significant success in their online businesses and have popular blogs, podcasts and online communities of like minded people that are or want to be entrepreneurs. It’s easy for new entrepreneurs to think that “If I start a blog, a podcast, a series of small income-generating websites and release a monthly income report, I’ll be the next Pat Flynn.” Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that.

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You can’t expect to have any meaningful success doing exactly what Pat Flynn or Dan Andrews did to build their brands five years ago. The Internet has changed a lot during the last half-decade and what made them special in 2009 is now commonplace in 2014. They differentiated themselves by building high-quality podcasts during a period when there were a relatively small number of business podcasts on iTunes. Now, there are literally hundreds of podcasts about doing business online. Having a podcast is no longer makes you different or better than anyone else. The same is true for courses that teach how to build Internet businesses. You can’t just follow an online course and expect to have a meaningful amount of success, because your business won’t be any different than anyone else that has taken the same course that you did. You need to find something new that not everyone else is doing to stand out from the crowd.

When I started my investment newsletter business (Analyst Ratings Network) in 2011, everyone thought that email newsletters were dead. At the time, the trend in financial news was to build big, all-inclusive news and research websites that published dozens of articles each day and had a wide variety of investment research tools for investors to make use of. I differentiated myself from the rest of the financial news community by reporting on one thing (stock ratings) better than anyone else and publishing the data in a very convenient format (a daily email newsletter). Because I’ve been able to differentiate myself successfully, I’ve been able to grow that business a base of more than 88,000 subscribers in just over three years.

The other issue with trying to replicate someone else’s business model is that you can’t replicate their personality. Your strengths, skills and personality are likely different than those of the person who’s business model you’re trying to emulate. If you were to put in the hard work and create a daily podcast like Entrepreneur on Fire, you’re probably not going to have the same success as John Lee Dumas because you can’t replicate his personality, his work ethic or his celebrity status. It’s perfectly okay that you can’t build a business exactly like someone else’s business. If everyone had the same business model, no one would have any meaningful amount of success.

Your unique business should fit your strengths and your personality. My investment newsletter business effectively leverages my software development skills and my ability to collect, organize and distribute financial data. It also doesn’t require me to do a bunch of things that I’m not particularly good at. I’m a type-B personality, so I’ve built a business that doesn’t require me to be around people all day. I’m also not a particularly talented public speaker or the type of person that wants to be famous, so you won’t see my name as part of the brand of any of my online businesses and I probably won’t be doing a lot of public speaking at conferences. If you haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about what you might be better at than anyone else, consider reading the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 and completing the associated online assesment. The key is to build a business that leverages as many of your strengths as possible and requires as few of your weaknesses as possible.