The thought of starting an online business is appealing for many reasons.
- It’s quite easy to start.
- You don’t have to study for years before you can begin.
- You can launch a business on the side of your full-time job.
- There’s huge earning potential.
Still – you need to have a good strategy if you want to succeed.
Studies have shown 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% in their second year, and 50% by year five. Yet most people have only a vague idea of the things they should be doing. To ensure the success of your business, you should learn from the mistakes of others and figure the rest out as you go.
In this article, you won’t find a list of things you have to do: you’ll uncover the biggest mistakes many people make when starting an online business.
From here, you can build the strong foundation you need for ultimate success.
1. Leaving your job without a game plan.
If you’re thinking your online business will be the answer to your financial problems, think again.
Many people make rash decisions when it comes to starting a business online. “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” is the best piece of advice you can remember.
There are many unknowns in business. If this is your only source of income and a cause of stress, you’ll have a much lower chance of succeeding. Burning bridges with colleagues and employers for the next pipe dream will only be detrimental to your business.
Building an online business doesn’t mean you won’t have to work. In fact, entrepreneurship is harder work than a regular 9-to-5 job.
So if you’re thinking of starting an online business because you think it means you won’t have to work, you’re looking at it the wrong way.
Instead of abandoning your job, start working one day each weekend and an hour or two after work. After a couple of months, you’ll get an idea of whether your online business can actually secure an income or not.
If it can’t succeed, you will cut your losses short. You won’t have the stress of wondering how you’ll get back on your feet if the business fails as long as you maintain good relationships and a stable income.
You can always quit your job when you start seeing success and your business becomes more stable. Or if you enjoy the work you do, having two streams of income is a wonderful strategy!
2. Thinking an online business is an easy way out.
Yes, it’s true that an online business can make you a rich person. It’s true that a 401K is not the only way to make your money work for you. And it’s true that online businesses have made many people very rich, very soon.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s easy. You can’t watch TV all day and expect that your business will magically build itself. It’s going to take grunt work, time, and lots of guts to get a business up and running.
If you are not up for
- Working late nights when needed
- Solving problems on your own
- Disciplining yourself to get things done without a boss
- Working when your friends are partying
…then starting an online business may not be the right thing for you.
Entrepreneurship is not the easy way out.
The reward for your hard work will be worth it. If the thought of the grind makes you excited to get started, you have built the mindset you’ll need to be successful.
3. Neglecting to educate yourself.
If you’re trying to succeed at building an online business, you’ll have to dedicate time to learning new things.
The online world changes every day. Information continues to expand and new technologies emerge. It’s impossible to succeed without the latest tools, practices, and opportunities available.
Make a goal to spend at least one hour per day researching and studying. You can do this by:
- Listening to podcasts
- Following great thinkers on Twitter
- Reading business books
- Subscribing to newsletters
- Watching YouTube videos related to your business
- Interviewing great business leaders
- Consuming business articles
Start thinking like an entrepreneur. Learn how to ask questions and learn from people you look up to. Choose to research and compile information so you can apply it later. Create a swipe file of helpful insight you find during your research, and consult it often.
In the end, a mindset for self-education will be the edge you need in a world full of wannabe online business owners.
4. Forgetting to build your social media presence.
Even if you don’t plan to market your business on social media, it can’t hurt to have a strong personal brand.
You have control over how people see you online.
This doesn’t mean you have to be the person posting on every social media platform daily. In fact, it’s better to start with one platform and build it strong before moving on to another.
Regardless, learning how social media works will help you as an entrepreneur. The more followers you have, the easier it will be to market your products, run sales and promotions, and scale your business.
Look at it like building your personal network. You can reach an endless amount of people online; the number you can reach in person is finite. Why not leverage your online presence to build your network?
5. Closing your ears to customers.
If you forget everything else, remember to focus on your customers. Their feedback will be the best tool you can use as you scale your online business.
This concept is vital, no matter where you are on your business journey! Before you even start, you can get feedback as part of your market research. People love to feel heard. Giving them the opportunity to offer feedback on your business or specific products can build their trust in your brand.
There are many ways to get your customers to share their thoughts with you:
- Include a chatbot on your website where they can ask questions
- Send out surveys
- Ask for direct replies to emails you send out
- Use social media polls
- Surf forums related to your product
- Create your own forum where customers can share their thoughts
If you can master the ability to listen to customers and apply feedback, you’ll be lightyears ahead of the competition.
6. Focusing too much on the details.
There are millions of business hacks available today. There are many tools that offer solutions for every problem your business might face.
When you’re starting out, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of options. If you do that, you’ll end up never taking action because you complicate your path to success.
It’s better to focus on the basics:
- Business strategy
- Customer service
- Sales and marketing
- Developing a great product
If you can get these things right, you can always fill in the details later. But if you get stuck on the details, you’ll hinder or even stop your success.
7. Ignoring email.
Sure, it’s not as new as TikTok or other novel marketing platforms, but email cannot be ignored. Email marketing is still one of the best investments you can make when marketing your business.
An email gets where no social media ad can: into your customer’s inbox. An email list is also something people opt into—they choose to give you access to their inbox. That’s a vote of confidence you shouldn’t take for granted.
If you focus on building an email list early on, you’ll have a way to market without spending thousands on ads. When you launch a product, you’ll have a certain amount of sales you can always count on from your list. You can use your list for surveys and other information you’ll need from your customers.
Testing new ideas, creating better products, and building rapport are all easier with an email list to leverage.
8. Skipping research.
A business is a research project. There’s no way around it. You can’t build a successful online business without doing proper research beforehand.
If you try to start a business on a whim, it will be like navigating a ship into a rocky port in the dark without a lighthouse. Research is your lighthouse. You’ll still have to work to sail into the port, but it will be much easier than sailing in without a guide.
Research your market. Who is your audience? What are their fears and desires? What platforms do they spend the most time on and how can you reach them? Your business can’t scale without the answers to these questions.
Research your industry. What are the most common questions people ask about the kind of business you’re building? How much competition is there? What is the problem you’re solving?
Research your competition. What ads are competing businesses running? How are they growing? What tactics are they trying? What has worked, and what hasn’t? Is there a common price point for the product or service you’re trying to sell? How can you differentiate your business?
This type of research is crucial before you begin, but you’ll continue to do it as you build your business. Your knowledge base will grow with research and experience. With time, you’ll be able to make quick, educated business decisions based on the research you’ve done in the past.
9. Theorizing instead of taking action.
There is another side to the coin of research. Research is only valuable as long as it’s helping you take action.
There are many entrepreneurs who hide behind business plans and never take action. That’s no better than acting without researching at all.
One way to find that balance is to set aside time for research every day and complete one small action item based on it.
This can be something small like tweeting your thoughts about what you’ve read. It can also be writing emails for a future sales sequence or buying a domain name for your online business.
Either way, ask yourself every day: am I taking action or theorizing?
10. Skipping learning sales and marketing.
Sales and marketing are an entrepreneur’s superpowers. They ultimately make the difference between a small business and an empire. If you think you know all there is to know about sales or marketing, you’re wrong.
Both fields are so huge that it can be hard to find where to start. It’s helpful if you can focus on one or two specific skills within the realm of sales and marketing.
Copywriting, for example, one of the best places you can start. It’s a high-income skill that will be valuable to you whether your business fails or succeeds. You’ll use it every day as an entrepreneur. (You can get a free copywriting training here.)
Other high income skills include content creation, graphic design, and social media strategy. Regardless of how you choose to go about sales and marketing, never neglect these essential skills.
Now that you know what not to do, what’s next?
Get out and start building. With consistency and focus, you’ll learn to build an online business that stands the test of time.