In the online business world, you are surrounded by marketing that focuses on how to help you grow your business. Online gurus, content marketing mavens, social media ninjas, and entrepreneurial authorities alike assure you that all you need to do is unlock a few key secrets, and you'll be well on your way to becoming a success.
Get more sales! Make more money! The secret to my six-figure launch! How to earn 7 figures in your first year! Stop trading time for dollars! You can be a millionaire with passive income! Triple your salary and decrease the time you spend working! How I grew to more than 50,000 Instagram followers with these simple secrets! Launch a course and automate your profits! Grow your list with this foolproof formula!
The sheer volume of marketing messaging can make it noisy and overwhelming. The best posts do contain solid nuggets of actionable advice— if you take care to separate fact from fairy tales. The majority can act as a distraction, wasting valuable time and inducing analysis paralysis.
At their worst, these posts can make you feel like a failure if you haven't become a huge success in a relatively short time. Even after following a “foolproof” formula.
Sometimes you may wonder if the only ones making money are the ones selling advice about how to make money.
Both Businessese and Hashtag Legal were born early last year. In that year, we've learned a lot about running an online business. Today, we want to separate fact from fairy tales, the truth from the marketing messages.
Here are ten lessons we've learned about the first year as an online business owner.
Set goals early and often.
When we started Businessese, we weren't sure what would happen. We launched with a minimum viable product and knew we would build from there. It was difficult to engage in much financial planning when we had no idea how the products would be received.
It's important to be limber when setting your goals. If something isn't working, pivot. If something is working, dive into that success and learn from it to help you re-calibrate.
We recommend that you set a quarterly goal for your business. Make it specific and set up an action plan to help you achieve it.
There is room for everyone.
When you are early in your business, it is very easy to fall into the imposter syndrome trap. Financial worries often lead to fear of competitors and competition.
We definitely dealt with that, but realized quickly that those feelings were simply a mindset issue that we had to move past. Very simply: the internet is a very large place. Find your audience and where your services are most needed. There is room for everyone.
Keep your eyes on your own paper.
We've all seen the social media posts about amazing launches, and it can make you feel like you are doing something wrong. Just remember that you are hearing about just one aspect of their business, not looking at the profit that they have on the books.
Stay focused on your goals. Just because another entrepreneur is praising a secret formula that worked for them, it doesn't mean that formula is what your business needs.
Find the tools that work for you.
Staying productive is critical when you are starting a business. Danielle loves Trello. Jamie prefers a paper to-do list. Find the tools that work for you and go with it.
If tracking everything digitally doesn't work for you, don't try to force yourself to be someone you are not. You'll end up wasting time and that's not not going to help you hit those goals.
My guru may not be your guru.
We strongly encourage you to seek out community and expert advice when you start a business. We were lucky to work with Natalie Eckdahl of Biz Chix last year and her coaching changed our business in ways we didn't anticipate. However, we fully understand that Natalie may not be the best coach for you. And, likewise, your favorite guru may not be the best for where we are in business.
Be discerning and find the person whose voice and lessons work the best for you. Remember, you want to find someone who can help you achieve your goals, not derail you and send you on the wrong path.
Build your list and community early.
One thing we really wish we'd done differently is how we timed our list and community building. We didn't launch our Facebook group until later in 2016 and ideally we would have had that in place from the beginning. It's helped us clarify our message and really learn what information people want from us.
Additionally, we wish we'd launched a great lead magnet with a sales funnel at the same time we launched our product store. Your list is a perfect place to nurture relationships and we do regret that we didn't do that right away.
Consider your products carefully.
Before launching a product, consider your plan carefully— really get to know the potential customer and whether or not they need the product. It's also ideal to have a list built before you launch. Otherwise, you may need to make a significant investment in Facebook ads to build your list.
Also, don't fall into the mindset that passive income is the only way to make money. An increasingly popular business plan is to launch a course and do webinars, and while courses certainly have their place, one-on-one work is often a great way to boost revenue early in your business.
A lot of people preach that you shouldn't trade dollars for hours, but we disagree and think there is still a great need for service-based businesses.
Determine your zone of genius.
As we mentioned above, we worked with a business coach to help us scale our business. One lesson she taught us was to find your zone of genius and maximize it. What are you really good at? What makes you feel most passionate?
Determine those activities that make the most of where your passions and talents naturally collide, and find ways to spend the most time on them.
Hire and get out of the way.
After you determine your zone of genius, this is an easy next step: figure out what you don't like doing or where you struggle and get help.
Our first hires were a bookkeeper and a tech person. Next, we hired a social media manager and content creator.
Most importantly, we hired people who are working in their zone of genius. Then, we got out of their way and let them do their jobs. Our only complaint is that we wish we had done it sooner!
Listen to your customers.
When setting your goals, don't forget to listen to your customers. Ask them regularly how you can support them and what products they want to see from you. Get to know their pain points. Don't become so focused on a goal that you are not flexible enough to change it if your audience doesn't respond well.
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The only real secret when building your online business:
There is no foolproof formula, just the one that works for your business model and for your audience within your timeline. And your measures of success may not be the same as everyone else's.
Remember that setbacks and missteps are part of the process, and it's developing the resilience to embrace that process that will ensure your eventual success. Assess, evaluate, keep learning, and keep going. You got this.
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