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8 Myths About Starting An Online Business

8 Myths About Starting An Online Business

You’ve come up with an awesome new product idea. Of course, it happened in the shower and you scrambled to jot it down. After rambling about the details to your friends and family, you’ve finally mustered up the courage to build a prototype.

Once again, your family and friends give you the thumbs up, but you’re still far from launching an online business. Everything about it sounds intimidating. You’ve watched far too many episodes of Shark Tank to the point that you’re scared about financing, building a website, and keeping up with marketing.

It seems strange to think about it at such an early stage, but saving money for your online business is often priority number one. Why is this the case? Because chances are you don’t have that much start-up capital and most successful businesses pinch pennies in the early stages regardless.

This gets you thinking about some of the statements you’ve heard about managing your costs, some of them coming from Shark Tank, but most of them coming from naysayer friends or people you’ve met at social events.

Here’s a tip: Forget about all of those statements, because chances are they’re myths. Your business plan is better without them, but it’s also important to realize which of them are myths in order to decide on which you should brush aside.

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You’re in luck, because we’ve compiled some of the more misleading myths about the costs of starting an online business. Go and grab your pen (or bookmark this page,) because you may find some surprising insights.

Myth 1: You Can Start an Online Business for Free (Or A Small Amount of Money)

You’ve all seen the ads that tell you about certain online website building platforms that provide free services (or close to free) online shop creators. In addition, there’s always that self-employed friend that’s telling you how inexpensive it is to get started online.

Although the ideal online store building solutions are fairly inexpensive, you can’t possibly expect to spend less than at least $500 per year on just your website. After all, this is your storefront. It’s the primary way you’re going to make money, and if you plan on expanding that business, it’s going to require investments.

The free (or close to free) online business is a marketing ploy to prompt you into buying. That doesn’t mean you have to spend $10,000 your first year developing a site, but it’s prudent to budget for more, rather than nothing.

Myth 2: You Can Only Start an Online Business With Lots of Startup Capital

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the days of spending ten or twenty thousand dollars on a web developer or marketing person are over.

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Yes, development is often the most expensive part of building a new website, but tools like Shopify, Bigcommerce, and even WIX provide you ready-made tools for launching your site and expanding it to a powerhouse. You don’t need a huge donation from your dad, so leave him alone already.

Myth 3: Many People Who Work Online Work Part-Time Hours but Make Full-Time Wages

Sure, you could go with a low cost business idea, like arts and crafts or selling your freelance services, but people who partake in these endeavors still put in the work to bring in clients and run their businesses just like anyone else.

In fact, one could argue that the traditional 40 hour job is impossible while running an online business, since you’re more likely to spend 80 hours per week nurturing your own company.

Myth 4: Social Media is a Costless Marketing and Money Making Outlet

Anyone who has made significant conversions through Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest can explain that social media marketing is far from free. Not only do effective advertisements cost money, but your strategy also requires loads of time and effort. In addition, you may end up hiring a social media person to manage the whole ordeal.

Myth 5: You Can Automate Everything When Selling Online to Cut Down on Labor Costs

Young business owners are prone to look for solutions that can completely automate their selling process. This ties into the fact that so many people crave the 4-hour workweek, but it also coincides with the numerous different apps and tools that have come out to automate processes.

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Let’s break it down.

You can’t completely automate your customer support. You can’t completely automate your social media. You can’t completely automate your receipts and promotions and returns. Labor costs are required, because people run businesses. It’s essential to keep this in mind for your budget.

Myth 6: A Large Promotional and Advertising Budget is the Key to Success

Mark Cuban repeatedly talks about how pouring money into a promotional budget is the last thing you want to focus on with a young company. This comes as a surprise, but you probably can’t even get an investment or SBA grant unless you can already prove that your business functions without the need for a huge marketing budget.

Myth 7: Processing Payments is Going to Break the Bank

Although it may be true that payment processing fees are going to pile up, putting in quality research to locate the most cost efficient solution can cut those processing costs and keep your company afloat for quite some time.

In fact, it’s imperative to locate the right payment gateway company for your brand, because 1% or 2% extra on each transaction can add up quickly.

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Myth 8: All Tasks Must be Completed by You or You Must Hire Someone Full-Time to Do Them

Online business owners frequently feel like every task must be completed in-house, whether it’s with their own sweat and blood or by hiring a full-time partner who can assist them with tasks such as web development, graphic design, social media, and email marketing.

Nothing is further from the truth, because nowadays freelancers are your friends. Hundreds of sites provide gathering spots for graphic designers, writers, social media workers, and even data entry freelancers – all of whom are poised to work for you for reasonable rates. There’s no reason to hire a graphic designer and put them on your payroll when you can turn to a trusty freelancer on an as-needed basis.

Over to You…

The various myths about small businesses frequently change, so continue doing your research to ensure that you don’t fall behind the times. Think about it. Some of the myths outlined above may very well have been true a while back; however, times change. Flexibility and awareness are key components in your entrepreneurship arsenal.

Can you think of any other cost myths that hold back online businesses?

Featured photo credit: Computer/Wild Zontar via flickr.com

More by this author

Melissa Burns

Melissa is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. She writes about communication, entrepreneurship and success on Lifehack.

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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