When I started my online business, I had no clue what I was doing.
I grew up with my single mom running her own cleaning business so I had that example, but never set out to be an entrepreneur, especially working solely online. I’ve worked a wide variety of different jobs but if you had told me years ago that I would be living abroad working online, I would have found it hard to believe.
But, I am so thankful for this journey and the opportunities we have with technology and online business. Still, it’s not easy. It can feel lonely and overwhelming.
With so many wanting to work from home and start an online business or side hustle right now, I started thinking about what I wish I had known when I got started.
Knowing I’m not the only one who went through the school of hard knocks for my online biz education, I reached out to my network to see what tips I could gather for you so you can avoid at least some of the mistakes we made to help you grow and succeed faster and with more joy.
An online business can be amazingly rewarding in between the struggle. So grab a hot beverage and glean all the lessons here. Be sure to bookmark this post so you can return to it for all the advice and additional resources as needed. And be sure to check out the links to visit these inspiring online entrepreneurs in their online hubs.
It Takes More Time & Energy Than You Think
Kelan & Brittany, The Savvy Couple
The Savvy Couple has an awesome blogging business on Family, Finance, and Freedom. I recently completed their course Bloggers’ Secrets that has so many great tips if you are wanting to start a money-making blog.
Before starting our online business, I wish I would have known how much harder it actually is than working your typical 9-5 job. We are constantly hustling and grinding to make our online business successful. Before we left our jobs, we were always working on our online business before and after work, weekends, and holidays.
In our situation as bloggers, it is just my husband and I and all the pressure is on our shoulders to make an income to support our family and expenses. It is very hard to “turn off” compared to your typical 9-5 and you constantly have something to do for your business.Brittany Kline, Savvy Couple
I totally agree with Brittany. Especially in the beginning when you are learning so much and when you are passionate about it, you tend to live and breathe your online business.
Something I have found that helps is after completing online business tasks for a while, review, and see what is actually getting you traction. You have to give some things time to work so you do not want to eliminate anything too soon but often there are tasks that you think are important but bring little to no results. Prioritizing and testing are key.
In Bloggers’ Secrets Kelan talks about the 80-20 rule. Where 20% of what you do gives 80% of your results so you want to keep track as you go along and focus on the things that really move your business forward. Kelan also mentions that they found that Twitter was not very effective for them, they had followers but it was not actually bringing traffic to the blog, so they do not put time into it anymore.
You can create boundaries for yourself to protect your personal and family time but you can save a lot of time and stress by learning as fast as you can what to focus on.
The Right Mindset is HUGE
Rose is a Personal Wardrobe Stylist who transitioned her in-person business to online and is creating some really awesome programs and groups. I have a full interview post for you with Rose in our Side Hustle Series Here: FROM STYLE CLASS™TO CLOSET GOALS WITH ROSE JUBB FOR LADY BOSSES so you can come back and read that when you are done with this post 🙂
I wish I would’ve known how much mindset is involved in business. It can sometimes be a roller coaster, especially at the beginning. So working on a mindset of abundance and my own confidence in my goals and dreams has been an important part of keeping me going and my success so far. You can really get in your own head when you are working by yourself, which is really common especially when you just start a business.Rose Jubb
This is something it took me quite a while to learn but is so important. Your mindset can be even more important for your online business than the skills needed to run an online business. I did a Get Dressed everyday challenge with Rose in her Facebook group. It is important to still get dressed like you mean business even when you work from home. To eat right and take good care of yourself to feel confident and healthy.
You can learn more about that here: A ROUNDUP OF ANXIETY STOPPING TIPS ON HOW TO WORK FROM HOME NOW
Take the time to grow as a person and be around people that help you believe in yourself.
It Is Important To Build Your Online Reputation ASAP
Martin Glenday, Founder and President of Moxie Media
Moxie Media is an online employee training company creating custom learning management systems.
When I first brought my business online, I wish I had known how important it would be to start establishing our online reputation as soon as possible. From social media platforms to YouTube and other video platforms, to Google My Business, to Yelp and other review sites, there are so many places where businesses should make sure they have a presence.
It is easier to establish those practices and start building a following sooner rather than later. Not only that but also you want to grow the authority of your own website over time. New online businesses should get started right away by building out their websites with all relevant information, starting a blog, and sharing their expertise online with other bloggers, journalists, and industry outlets.Martin Glenday, Moxie Media
As I hinted at earlier, you do not have to be on every platform. Some may not be effective for your online business. But I love that Martin points out how important online reputation is. And thinking about your visibility from the start. Especially about having your own website. Your website acts as a hub that helps you grow your authority and get you in front of your clients or customers.
Social media platforms are great but they go through a lot of changes that can really affect your online business. Your own website creates a place to send your new tribe to and allows you a bit more control.
It Is Easier If You Just Get Started
Kimberly Afonso, Thought-Leadership and Digital Marketing Agency Founder, KimberlyAfonso.com
Kimberly is a big traveler and I have a full interview post in our How People Work Around The World Series. You can check that out here: SHE RUNS A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY IN EUROPE. Her online business is, you guessed it, a digital marketing agency.
I wish I had known that it is actually not as difficult to start an online business as I thought it would be. It took me a while to actually start, and in retrospect, starting was actually the most difficult part!
Especially if you are service-based, you only need a few clients to make an impact and make a solid revenue quickly. So, with that said – I encourage anyone thinking about starting an online business to learn from this story and don’t complicate things in your own head – simply get started!Kimberly Afonso
While running an online business can be a challenge, as represented in some of the other advice, it is a lot easier than starting a brick and mortar business.
You can learn as you go with online business Sometimes we put things off so long out of fear and not knowing, but remember there are many online entrepreneurs out there that are willing to help.
As Steven Pressfield put it, “Start before you’re ready.” You cannot grow, learn, and adjust if you never get started.
We’re all in this together.
Your Branding Can Make Or Break
Kinyatta E. Gray, Author and Founder of FlightsInStilettos®
FlightsInStilettos® is a travel style brand helping women travel glamorously through the airport in their personal travel style.
I absolutely love these types of reflective questions, because oftentimes they allow you to think about your professional growth and development and just how far you’ve come. What I wish I had known before I started my business online was the importance of “branding”. In 2018, I was that woman that had an idea and just went for it. I didn’t have a business plan at the time, nor did I consult with anyone on the steps I should take in order to launch a successful online business.
I was anxious to launch my ideas “online” and share them with the world. During that same year, I researched user-friendly website platforms so that I could easily create my own website, thus saving money. The experience was quite challenging and sometimes even fun. The outcome however was underwhelming.
Even though I had a professional logo, there was absolutely no organization, rhyme, or reason to my website. The images I added to my website were not professional and quite frankly didn’t align with anything. I didn’t possess the expertise to create the proper pages for my website to make finding information easier for my website visitors.
My website stayed in this condition for an entire year until I met someone who wanted to partner with me and kindly raised concerns about the look and feel of my website. That was just the kind of intervention that I needed to become aware of the fact that I was not on the right path with my website due to a lack of branding.
Because my website lacked branding it was not considered professional and I most likely missed out on a tremendous amount of sales and even collaborations because the look, feel, and messaging of my website was not clear.
For those that may be unclear on what branding is, by definition (according to brandingmag.com) it is a marketing practice in which a company creates a name, symbol, or design that is easily identifiable as belonging to the company. Immediately after the crash course in branding, I hired a local branding expert who helped me to establish a consistent look, feel, and messaging for my business FlightsInStilettos®.
The investment was well worth it because my sales increased and my website is memorable and reflects the entire concept of my business through the well-placed imagery and content. If I was informed about the necessity of branding prior to launching my online business, I’m sure that the first year of my business would have been much more successful and memorable for my customers. Thankfully now, my website is used as a benchmark for effective branding.Kinyatta E. Gray, FlightsInStilettos®
Branding is super important especially for an online business where others are not meeting you in person. I have talked about it before, Immensely Social used to be a hot pink and black hot mess. If you can hire someone to help that is great. Especially for your website as Kinyatta mentioned.
Remember it is your hub. But I also know that is not in the budget for everyone. We’re all about DIY here when budgets are tight. But do some research to see what online businesses you are attracted to what makes them look professional.
If you have an in-between budget, consider going part professional and part DIY. Buying professionally designed templates, themes, graphics, and then editing them yourself. This can help you learn how to create more professional looking brand elements and what designs work.
I have a course on SkillShare that could help DIY Branding: Maintain A Consistent Personal Brand With Canva
Kinyatta is right- the right branding can really help your business stand out and be seen.
Get A Grip On The Logistics and Marketing
Mary and Chris Ginder, Gindo’s Spice of Life
With their Award Winning fresh pepper hot sauces, the Ginders have learned a lot about online business while making the world’s best small batch artisanal craft hot sauces!
We wish we had had a better understanding about shipping – the logistics, the costs, the packaging. We also feel like every time we found a solution to our problems, it seemed like it we would get complacent instead of continuing to try to improve it like we do now. Wish we had a better fundamental understanding of the marketing involved with it. We could honestly go on for hours about it. These are just the first ones that came to mind.Mary and Chris Ginder, Gindo’s Spice of Life
If you are shipping and packaging products that you are selling online, you have not only the marketing world to learn, but also all there is about sending your products out. I have not dealt with this personally, as I work with digital products, but I can only imagine the overwhelm.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just like this post is sharing the “What we wish we had known in our online business” you can find out what others needed to know but didn’t in your particular niche.
And never stop improving. The online business world changes fast.
Learn Search Engine Optimization
Amira is a Lawyer and blogger. I was thrilled to be introduced to her work because she creates these amazing, lawyer approved, Legal Bundles that I have implemented here at Immensely Social. A thousand times better than free templates and plugins I found online that I was using before. Made me feel so much better so definitely check them out.
When I started my online business, I wish I had learned SEO right away. I didn’t learn SEO and wasted valuable hours and days writing blog posts that never ranked on Google. When I did finally invest in SEO courses to learn and master it, I had already published quite a few blog posts that I had to go back, edit and optimize for the right keywords.
This turned out to be a huge time commitment with my full-time job as a lawyer, so I ended up hiring people to do this for me. But if I had learned SEO from the very beginning, I could have avoided this headache and not only saved a lot of time but also tons of money! So I highly recommend you learn SEO from day one (before you start writing blog posts)!Amira, A Self Guru
Amira is so right. You have to write for the people. Your readers first, solving their problems, being their BFF or super supportive big brother or big sister with the right branding, mindset, and all. But, if you miss it with the search engines those potential readers you could support may never find you or your online business.
I definitely recommend taking some classes and gaining some SEO knowledge. The Bloggers’ Secrets course recommended earlier has some info on SEO. There are also some good SEO courses on Skillshare. If you use my link here you can get two free months of SkillShare Premium to check out SEO courses and all the many online business courses including mine! A good one to check out on SkillShare is Introduction to SEO by Moz.
Do your best to start optimizing your content right away.
For WordPress, I also love the Rank Math SEO plugin.
Build Your Community
For 7 years Natalie had a freelance photography business before becoming the co-founder of the Rising Tide to give solopreneurs the resources and support they need to be successful in their business.
She joined HoneyBook in 2015 following their acquisition of the Rising Tide and today leads a community of 77K creative entrepreneurs and freelancers.
Before my current role as Head of Community at HoneyBook, I spent seven years building my freelance photography business. I was passionate about photography and felt such joy capturing the moments that people will cherish forever, but at the same time, I was struggling with feelings of loneliness. I was doing what I loved, building a successful business, but I was doing it alone. If there was one thing I wish I’d known earlier in my career it’s the power of community.
When you’re running your own business it’s easy to get trapped in the mindset that you’re alone in this, when the reality is that there are so many people experiencing the same challenges and that when you lean on each other, you can all rise together. Building tangible and authentic relationships is absolutely vital to sustainable success as a small business owner.
Once I began connecting with local creatives in my industry I discovered this truth for myself and eventually founded the Rising Tide Society (RTS). Our goal is to connect freelancers and small business owners with the resources, community support and, since joining HoneyBook, tools they need to be successful in their business. The core mission of this group of 77K entrepreneurs is to create a space where everyone can rise together doing what they love.Natalie Franke, Co-Founder of the Rising Tide and the Head of Community at HoneyBook
Even the introverts among us can get lonely when working our online business and from home. Community building is so important not only to stay connected but to help us grow and expand as people and online business owners.
Finding communities, like Rising Tide Society, that you can be a part of can help tremendously as you grow your online business. It can be scary to reach out to others but I have found many in the online business and blogging world to be very friendly and willing to help. Others want to connect too.
Here’s an interview on the importance of connection especially when you work from home THAT SIDE HUSTLE: THE WORK FROM HOME GUIDE TO CONNECTION WITH KAT VELLOS
Find Your Creative Genius Factor
TerDawn DeBoe, CEO of Creative Thought
As a full-time entrepreneur, TerDawn DeBoe has used her knowledge and expertise to help hundreds of other companies to look outside the box and find creative solutions to their biggest problems to achieve even greater success.
The business creative genius factor is all about embracing creativity, finding an innovative angle that will make your business stand out. Your creative genius goes beyond your unique value proposition. It incorporates your personality and what inherently comes naturally to you. If someone randomly walks up to you on a sidewalk and asks, what makes your business unique, will you stutter or offer an immediate answer?
The truth is, most of us will be rendered speechless simply because we have never taken the time to contemplate the matter. That’s the mistake most entrepreneurs make. Your unique business angle is what draws customers in. It’s what distinguishes your venture from competitors. Without it, you’re one extra drop in the ocean. And even though a drop makes a ripple, it won’t be big enough.
To unveil your creative genius factor, you need to seek a new perspective of presenting your business to the target audience. Most products and services are geared towards solving a problem or satisfying a specific need. Instead of squeezing yourself in the tiny gap, all businesses are trying to breach, create a problem that clients didn’t even know existed, and solve it. This is an innovation that puts you one step ahead in the game. By exhibiting idiosyncratic creativity, you command authority in your niche. And that’s what garners your business required recognition.TerDawn DeBoe, CEO of Creative Thought
This kind of contemplation is hugely beneficial in online business. Being able to explain what you do as an online business owner can be a real challenge. But if we lack confidence and clarity in the way we share our businesses we will not draw the right people to us.
It is about getting to know you and your business and also your potential customers very well. Think about what your unique business angle is. There may be other businesses similar to yours but nobody is you. Nobody has your exact makeup and experience.
Treat It Like A Business
This last tip comes from yours truly. And it was a hard earned lesson.
It may sound obvious but sometimes what we have online is not working as a business but a hobby. If you are spending more than you make, have your biz expenses too mixed up with your personal, and no strategy you don’t have a real business.
Try to treat your business like a business from the very beginning. Have a strategy and growth plan. Know the purpose behind what you are doing and creating for service and income. I wrote about my mistake on Forbes here.
Found this online business advice helpful? Leave a reply in the comments and let me know your ah-ha moments. And then share this with a friend.
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