When you start your online business (or any business), you are bound to make a few mistakes.
When I started my first online business back in 2010, I probably made every mistake you can imagine.
My failures led to hundreds of hours being wasted, not to mention a lot of money lost, and of course, there was the feeling of being deflated.
Most people would not have blamed me if I had just given up.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t have the luxury.
A flexible schedule was and continues to be a necessity due to having a young daughter. (Many of you may be able to relate to this!).
So, I knew that the internet and my future would be tied together for a long time.
As I slowly moved up the learning curve, the losses subsided, small victories became bigger, and I found ways to make my online effort profitable.
As I look back over the last six years, I’ve been trying to think about the advice I wish I had when I first started out in the online world.
What would I have told myself?
Sometimes it can be a tough (but necessary) thing for me to revisit these failures so that I can avoid them.
#1 Not Doing My Research
Have you ever gone to an all-you-can eat buffet and eat too much?
Yeah, me too.
Some of the food items might not even be appealing but I want to try them anyway!
In the end, you eat so much that you eventually begin to feel horrible!
Well, when it comes to doing business online, it’s easy to want and try it all. Your eyes get bigger than your budget, expertise, or passion.
Too many times, I selected to try things before I did my research. Any research.
Most of the time, I didn’t understand the target market, the competition, and the value of my products.
It sounds obvious, I know, but when you start an online business (or any business) consider doing your research first, preferably before you start spending any real money.
Take the time to learn about your target market, determine who your consumers will be, and understand why they would want your product/service in the first place.
Know and understand which “pain points” you will be taking care of.
Look at your competition. What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? How can you add better value?
#2: Not Picking Something I Was Passionate About
I have to be honest, I have made this very poor decision many times before.
In fact, there have been many projects I have taken on that I was not even remotely passionate about.
And then there were those projects that I embarked upon that I truly disliked.
So, why did I even bother with them?
Mostly because I thought it would be easy money. I thought that I could tap into various fads or a specific demand for a product and make money.
Often times I did make money, but it wasn’t worth it because each day was a slog to get through. And in the end, I probably lost more sleep and gained more stress that I wanted.
Most of the time, it just wasn’t worth it.
The great thing about starting an online business is that you can pretty much do anything you want.
The sky’s the limit, as they say.
My recommendation is that you do something that you’re passionate about.
Think about what you do every day. What tickles your fancy a few times a month? Chances are that you are passionate about the very things that you think about.
So invest it those things. The love and passion that you have for something will pay off and your customers will be able to feel it!
#3 Investing In Too Much Inventory
Inventory sucks up your money. The more inventory you have, the less money you have in your pocket.
Unless you’ve really done your research, you never know exactly how much inventory you’ll need.
And yet, the more inventory you get, the less it typically costs per piece.
It’s often a conundrum.
I’ve made the mistake of ordering too much inventory that didn’t sell. This would usually mean that I lost money.
Fortunately, I avoided huge or even small losses due to the higher profit margins I made from selling at least some of the inventory.
Still, this is a mistake I wish I never made. If I hadn’t, I would be a much richer man for it.
#4: Assuming That Customers Would Just Come to My Website
There are so many websites and web pages being published every day, it’s nearly impossible to get the traffic you want and need organically – at least right away.
I’ve made the mistake in believing that if I just built and published my website by 10 am, traffic and sales will start coming in right after lunch.
Generally, this isn’t the case.
Just because I built a website doesn’t mean I will get instant visitors to my site. It takes a lot of work, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), on-and-offline networking, and creating valuable content that people will want to share.
For me, it was hard not to get out of the 1999 mindset of thinking. I had to provide more than just a website.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Creating a website is a great first step. It’s a HUGE necessary step.
But, generating good content and engaging with your potential customers online and offline is a necessity to cultivating traffic.
There is no such thing as overnight success. By removing the assumption that customers will just come to your website because you built it, you can manage your expectations as well as manage your strategy over the long run.
#5 Not Doing One Thing at a Time (spreading myself too thin)
I once bought into the idea of multi-tasking as way to get more things done faster. Boy was I wrong about this!
It only made me less effective, less efficient, all the while sapping my energy, making me more stressed, tired, and grumpy.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to try out several ideas. In fact, keeping an open mind about your path towards success is always a good idea.
But if you are going to choose an option, then stick with it.
Breakdown each project or task and work to complete it before jumping onto another idea.
By focusing on one thing at a time, you will give it your best effort, be more focused, and complete it much faster than if you were to simply add it to your ever-growing “to do” list.
Was There Anything I did right?
To be fair, it’s also important to think about any of the things I did right. There were a few. Over time, they sustained me and made it possible generate more profit and greater satisfaction.
I learned a bit of the technical stuff
I learned how to create my first website back in 1997. It was a different online landscape back then and perhaps a little harder because the resources were not as abundant.
No doubt, I was skeptical of this new medium of being online and even further terrified of giving up my credit card information.
In 2009, after paying someone a lot of money to build a cheap website for me, I revisited the idea of re-learning how to build my own site.
Learning the technical stuff has saved me thousands of dollars and gave me the freedom to experiment with different ideas. I also have turned my web developing skills into a nice part-time business.
I Learned to Tell Myself No
Sometimes the secret to your success is in not saying “Yes”, but it’s having the ability to say “No” – especially to myself.
Having the ability to say “No” to tempting projects has been a slow undertaking for me. Yet, having the ability to say “Now” has let me spend more of time on the important things that I rather pursue.
Once you establish your own priorities based on the goals that you have set out for yourself, you will then need the ability to block out distractions, disruptions, and stay focused on the things that matter.