If you’re about to start an online business OR if you have an online business that’s not growing the way you’d like it to grow, this guide is for you. There are 10 ultimate online business secrets—no one tells you until now.
In the past 6 years, I’ve struggled to create the success I wanted online. I set my credit card on fire charging class after class trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.
Turns out, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I just had incomplete information and unrealistic expectations for my own business.
As I enter my seventh year of business, I’m beginning to see the light and realize that not everyone is going to make $100,000 a month in their business after two, three, or even 10 years.
But you WILL achieve tangible (money in the bank) results.
So today, I’m sharing 10 things all online entrepreneurs NEED to know but few people tell them. These 10 points are not sexy at all but online entrepreneurs need to know the truth. So, I’m sharing because success means something different to everyone. I can’t guarantee you’ll be successful, but I trust that following these 10 tips will help you build a foundation for your business that will inspire confidence—in yourself and for others— on your individual path to success.
Here is my list of the 10 Ultimate Online Business Tips—No One Will Tell you.
1. Don’t follow your passion
Starting an online business is now officially a “thing.” Everyone seems to be throwing their hat onto the internet to start an online business, and that’s great. But let’s remember, you’re starting a business and need to make money.
If you’re not making money, you’re not in business. Now, it would be awesome if you were passionate about your business. After all, you’ll be spending a decent amount of time building it, but you don’t have to be passionate. You just need to enjoy it.
The thing is, YOU need to enjoy your business. Your CLIENTS need to be passionate about your business. They need to LOVE you and everything you do.
So, no one may tell you but, here’s the truth. If you want to create a business that makes money and helps you to live the life you want, you need to get out of your own head and into the head of your clients, audience, or customers.
Figure out what THEY are passionate about, and then create services, products, and freebies just for them.
If you only take one thing from this book, take this: Your business is not about you; it’s about your customers. With them, you don’t have a business.
2. Online Business Doesn’t Mean No Cost
Starting an online business is WAY cheaper than starting a brick and mortar business. That’s a given, but you have to spend money on your online business.
Contrary to popular opinion, this is not a race for how cheaply you can build your business. There’s a spectrum. You could go into massive debt to start your business or you could spend as little money as possible.
Don’t actually do either of those things. When you’re planning your business, create a new business budget for your first year.
As you create your first-year online business budget, you’ll need to plan for operational AND professional development expenses.
You’ll also want to have a clear plan to make money. Whether you’re freelancing, creating products, starting an Etsy store, are reselling, or blogging you need to know how you’ll make money and have a realistic budget for your operations and professional development.
Setting a realistic budget AND using it, is key to your online business success. Remember, just because you’re online doesn’t mean you have no start-up business costs.
You’ll definitely spend less online than you would with a physical location, but you’ll still need to spend some money. Setting your expectations from day one will help you launch your new online business successfully.
3. Invest in Personal Development on Day 1
No matter how smart you are, you’re probably not an expert in everything. There are most likely areas where you need to learn a little more to increase your confidence.
For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, you may not know the best way to build a pipeline of clients, how to package and charge for your services, where or how to advertise your services, and how to handle your client interactions.
Or maybe you’re really interested in graphic design and have a bit of experience but you’re not quite confident in your abilities to handle any request a client throws in your direction.
In both cases, there are online courses and in-person courses to support you to learn and grow as an entrepreneur. Most people starting online businesses want to make a ton of money with as little investment as humanly possible. Some people are successful doing this. Sure. Most entrepreneurs, though, need to invest a little up front.
No one (but perhaps me) is going to tell you this though because the way this industry is developing, it’s all about low upfront costs and high returns. Forget that.
To figure out how much to allocate for your first-year professional development expenses, ask yourself these three questions:
1. Where do I feel nervous about this business?
2. What do I wish I knew how to do?
3. How much money am I allocating for my first-year budget?
Once you can answer these questions, prioritize your professional development based on your budget AND the courses that will give you the highest return on your investment.
4. Your back office can make/break business
Here’s the next area most entrepreneurs don’t mention—your back office. When done right, your back office is invisible and gives your business a perception of credibility and professionalism.
Your back-office functions may include everything from communication to accounting and tax preparation. Whether you’re communicating with a client or an accountant, how you handle your business is how you run your business. If you’re disorganized and non-responsive in your communications, then your business is likely suffering from the same ailments.
Even solo entrepreneurs have back office costs
Depending on the type of business you choose to start and the local requirements of your home country, you may need to register your business and/or procure liability insurance.
All businesses—no matter the industry or the product/service offerings—need a plan for their accounting. Contrary to all business hopes and dreams, the money doesn’t just figure itself out. Accounting takes planning and whether you’re going to do it by hand, use Excel, invest in a payment system, or use a free system like Paypal, you need to have a plan (and a set schedule to document) for how you receive payments, make payments, and document what comes in and goes out.
Just because it’s boring doesn’t make it optional
This prickly topic is not fun at all. It’s really quite boring and you’ll find most courses and online personalities gloss over this essential part of your business because no one likes to think about it yet everyone deals with it. It’s not sexy but it’s practical. And let’s be honest, not having your basic needs met makes being sexy pretty darn impossible. So handle the practical pieces of your business so you can enjoy the fun bits.
5. You’re Online Not On An Island
You’ve started an online business. Woot Woot! Go you. Here’s a juicy tidbit. Just because you’re business is online doesn’t mean you can’t go out into the world and promote your business.
Join your local Chamber of Commerce. Become a part of meet-up groups. Go online and find people and businesses that match your ideal client’s profile and pitch your business. Send emails. Make phones calls, if appropriate. Network through friends and former colleagues.
You are not alone on an island. Don’t act like you are. Get out from behind your laptop and go mingle. Do your clients or blog readers attend happy hours? Playdates? Kid birthday parties?
If you’ve got a logo and a website (or just the website), make a t-shirt for yourself and any friends who agree to support you. Make a bumper sticker for your car, minivan, SUV, or truck. I’ve got to thank Ruth Soukup for this genius idea.
Promote Promote Promote. Of course, you can promote yourself on social media, but deals are still made in person. Some people still like to see a face and shake a hand before they part with their money (or time).
And remember, a potential client may take 6-8 gentle nudges before they buy from you. Your online business is a marathon, not a sprint.
This leads to point #6: Rome wasn’t built in a day.
6. Rome wasn’t built in a day
Not to be trite, but it’s true. Take your time. If you spend a lot of time online looking at successful webpreneurs, you’ve probably seen income reports from some personalities who claim to make $10,000 to $100,000 a month online.
Now, if they can make that kind of money online every.single.month., amazing! I’m thrilled for them, but you and I will drive ourselves crazy comparing our monthly revenue to those numbers.
It’s awesome to have a goal, but I don’t think even these crazy successful businesses envisioned this level of growth. They just worked their business. Their results are just results. Don’t compare yourself to anyone and set realistic yet challenging goals for yourself. We all need goals and if yours is to make crazy money online, awesome. That’s definitely my goal. My point though is that not everyone is successful at the very start.
We all need goals and if yours is to make crazy money online, awesome. That’s definitely my goal. My point though is that not everyone is successful at the very start.
A lot of the most successful people took a while before they really settled into their stride. It doesn’t make you less successful than the person who starts making $20,000/month after working for two years; it just makes you different.
If you need help remembering (or even believing) this, here’s a story from a video I saw youtube.
The summary of the video is:
An elephant and a dog became pregnant at the same time. Three months down the line the dog gave birth to six puppies. Six months later the dog was pregnant again, and nine months on it gave birth to another dozen puppies. The pattern continued. On the eighteenth month, the dog approached the elephant questioning, “Are you sure that you are pregnant? We became pregnant on the same date, I have given birth three times to a dozen puppies and they are now grown to become big dogs, yet you are still pregnant. What’s going on?”. The elephant replied, “There is something I want you to understand. What I am carrying is not a puppy but an elephant. I only give birth to one in two years.
When my baby hits the ground, the earth feels it. When my baby crosses the road, human beings stop and watch in admiration, what I carry draws attention. So what I’m carrying is mighty and great.” Don’t lose faith when you see others receive answers to their prayers. Don’t be envious of others’ testimony. If you haven’t received your own blessings, don’t despair. Say to yourself “My time is coming, and when it hits the surface of the earth, people shall yield in admiration.”
Credits: Charles Junior
7. You Need a Blog
It’s not just enough for you to have a website. You need a blog. Static websites are a thing of the past. If you’re selling a good, a service, or even if you’re trying to get a book deal, you need a blog. Your blog is your audience. They’re the people who want what you’re cooking. Whether they want to consume your free content or they want to buy your services, the people who read your blog are into YOU and the things you have to say.
It really doesn’t matter what your business is, you still need a blog.
You may not know what to say. After all, you sell widgets*, “what would you write?” and “who would read it?”.
The answer is you’d write about things your clients want to know. If you sold widgets, you’d write about why they’re cool and how to use them to do a million and one different things. You’d write about widget hacks, and client success stories using widgets.
The same is true as a graphic designer, a blogger, a virtual assistant, a coach, or a freelance writer.
You may read that it’s better to start your business on a social media platform, like Facebook, but here’s the real deal: you don’t own Facebook. You have no rights on Facebook, and you can’t control anything on Facebook or on any other social media profile.
The only place you have complete rights and ownership is on your own website where you’ve purchased the domain and pay for your own hosting. This is a fairly old model, but it works. You use your blog to attract like-minded people who are interested in your free content (text, video, and podcasts to name a few blogging mediums). Eventually, as those people get to know you and hopefully as they increasingly like your content, they’ll become customers.
Your blog will become your best business pipeline.
8. Perception Matters: Skimp on aesthetics, not training or logistics
Yes, you need a blog and it needs to be attractive but you do not need to spend thousands of dollars on your website at the start.
It takes a day (or less) to create a custom website. If you’re going to invest in your business in the first year, don’t sink money in aesthetics. Invest in your own professional development and business operational systems.
If you have issues with a technical issue on your website, by all means, hire someone to fix it but pay for their hourly rate and don’t waste time perfecting your website.
After your first year in business, you’ll have a better idea of what works for your business and what distinctly does not work. There’s no point in creating a custom website that cost you thousands of dollars in year one to only need to pay for a redo in year two or three
9. Your Closest Friends May Not Understand
Be prepared for this. Not everyone will see your vision, especially if you’ve left a “good” job to pursue your online business dreams.
While having an online business may seem like a no-brainer to you and me, many people just don’t understand it. And those people who you think are your biggest cheerleaders may become your biggest emotional obstacles.
Close family and friends may try to persuade you to abandon your “hobby” for a more “practical” job.
Don’t let their cynicism deter you from perusing your online business goals. Thank your family and friends for their suggestions and let them know that this is your plan.
Then promptly stop discussing your business successes and challenges with these folks until you feel comfortable and find people who support your goals and dreams. These are you people, and they will be your rock as you grow your business.
It’s really ok for family and friends not to “get it,” but you have to find people who do. They will become your business allies.
10. Side hustles (+ FT jobs) save businesses
Starting an online business is amazing and like I said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It could take a minute (or two) to really hit your stride.
Meanwhile, paying bills, buying food, and eating requires consistent income.
Given that you need a place to live and food to eat AND the fact that your business may or may not provide consistent income immediately, there’s no shame in having a part-time side hustle or keeping a full-time job until you’re comfortable being a full-time online entrepreneur.
Desperation does not attract business.
Having consistent income keeps your business fresh and growing without reeking of desperation. Besides, no one wants to hire a desperate person and YOU won’t charge what you’re worth if you’re desperate. You stand the chance of undervaluing yourself.
If consistent income is a struggle, starting an online business will not immediately remedy that. So, having a little dependable side hustle or keeping a full-time job while working your online business on the side, will alleviate a ton of stress and keep your business fun.
Your business is your chance to make a dent in the world. Above all, be of service and make a habit of going beyond your clients’ expectations. Don’t let these 10 online business secrets break you. Handle your back-end business so you can crush your front-end business and make those customers and your audience happy.
Can any one of these tips change your business? Tell me how in the comments below.