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8 Myths About Starting An Online Business

8 Myths About Starting An Online Business
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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

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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 July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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