Advertising
Advertising

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting an Online Business

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting an Online Business

Admit it.

You’ve day-dreamed of starting your own business.

And why not?

It’s amazing because you’ll never have to put up with awful office politics. You’ll feel like a powerhouse.

You’ll blur the lines between work and play, and although you will be working more hours than a 9-5 job, you’ll love every second of it.

And here’s another cool thing: Once you start your own business, you’ll never go back to the job-hunting scene. Ever.

Does that send your heart racing? Tickle your fancy?

But here’s the thing: Everyone’s got an entrepreneurial idea – whether it’s a new app that will take off or a shopping website that will blow customers’ minds away.

While these are great goals to have, here’s some harsh truth:

Ideas don’t mean a thing. Unless you convert them into something more tangible.

Your business is that something. It’s real, it’s living, it’s thriving.

There’s a ton of advice of what you should and should not do as you start a new online venture. Whom to believe? Where to start?

Four and a half years ago, I had the same questions that kept me up all night. So I did ton of research, applied all the wrong moves and course-corrected, researched, applied some more and so on.

(Hint: Don’t spend hours on the marketing forums. That’s a time-suck for sure.)

Advertising

Long story short, back then, I had no idea to know whether my action steps were any good. No roadmap to follow. No clue about options that could have made my life easier.

Like they say, you don’t know what you don’t know.

If you’re starting your own business, here’s a letter I wrote myself that will save you the heartache and money. Steal it. Please.

Dear Four-and-a-Half-Years-Younger Me:

So you’re starting a new business. Good for you! You’re going to love every moment. Well, almost.

But don’t haste. Here’s a list of things to follow. Treat this as a prophecy. It WILL come true.

1. Every Little Action Counts

As a new business owner, you’re thinking big results.

That’s good – but don’t forget the power of small steps.

Because even slow progress is progress.

So ease up a bit and take small, effective action steps. Shuffling paper, checking your Google Analytics stats and speaking on phone may appear as effective, but most of the times, you’re better off doing something else.

That something else is “effective action” – you put your 100% at the task in hand. You shut down your browser windows, you log out of Facebook and you quiet your smartphone notifs.

When in doubt, ask: Can I lose myself in this task and feel proud about it?

If the answer is No, stop and find a more effective action task. Don’t worry, you’ll find ample because your to-do list is over-flowing.

2. Be Super-Productive on Fridays

In a perfect world, you’d never work weekends.

As an entrepreneur though, it’s hard to paint a black and white picture of your work schedule.

Advertising

Still, it’s a no-brainer to take some days off. But how?

Be super-productive on Fridays. If there’s any backlog of work from the week, tick it off before your workday ends and weekend begins, which means before Friday evening.

It’s hard to relax if you have procrastinated on some important tasks. You feel guilty and unproductive, and your work sneaks into your weekend.

Get into a habit of making your Fridays super-productive.

3. Build a Relationship – One at a Time

Know the number one rule of networking?

First, seek to help.

Met someone on a forum, LinkedIn, or in the comment section of a blog? Learn more about this person. Get curious about them and their business. It’s a harmless, genuine goal.

Then add value by sharing a useful article or a tweak, or give feedback. They may or may not do business with you, but that’s irrelevant.

4. Keep a Tab on How Leads Find You

Right now, you don’t care how leads come to you. You’re happy to have their business and in your kid-in-a-candy-shop-like excitement, you forget to ask a simple yet powerful question.

Where did you find out about me?

This is pretty critical in your marketing mix.

After all, if you don’t keep a tab of your best channels, how are you supposed to leverage them?

Keep an excel sheet listing out who found you where: Was it a referral? Was it via LinkedIn? Was it through a networking meetup? Did Google send them to your website?

The 80-20 rule applies – 80% of your revenue will come from 20% of sources, so naturally you pay special attention to these channels and spend more time marketing on them.

Advertising

Trust me, having that kind of knowledge about your sources is gold. If it’s not obvious or you can’t figure it out yourself, ask your clients where they learned about you.

Business and analysis go hand in hand, so it’s smart to monitor all your business data in one place with tools such as Cyfe.

5. Start an Email List – Pronto!

You still don’t have an email list? You must really hate money. Tsk tsk.

Wait, you have an email list but you’re not sending regular juicy content, and helping your prospects live a little better life with each message? You’re leaving a lot on table.

Start an email list from day zero.

Jon Morrow suggests that before you even launch a blog, you can have a “coming soon” page and capture leads. You don’t have to do anything fancy – just installing a free theme like LaunchEffect will do.

Set up an autoresponder series for your leads and share great content. A good practice is to send three content-based emails for one promo/sales-based email.

Offer a freebie (also known as a Lead Magnet) in exchange for their email. Do this, pronto!

6. Invest in Yourself

That $250 course by the genuine online marketer? Snag it. It will take you places.

That monthly blogging membership course from a problogger? Yes, take that too.

When it comes to investing in yourself, trust your gut instinct about the “guru”.

7. Done is Better than Perfect

Stop mulling indefinitely, create it already! It will take discipline, time and focus, but it will be worth it.

Yes, that includes your Kindle books and the membership website.

8. Be Prompt with Email Responses

Be prompt with enquiries. If someone sends you an online enquiry, reply as soon as you see it.

Advertising

This person is desperate for help, and they most likely sent the same inquiry to other providers.

The provider who responds first, initiates a conversation and gets the business. Be that person.

Replying the next day is a dumb move.

9. Don’t Compare Yourself with Those Who’ve Started Five Years Before

It is futile. For starters, you’ll compare the wrong things and your weak points with their best.

Comparison will rob you of focus, motivation and joy.

Lastly, it’s hard to stop it once you start.

A better alternative? Put your head down and get to work. Quit comparing.

10. Start with Service and Move toward Products (Passive Income)

In the beginning, you will have more time than money.

So start with a service. Get acquainted with your client base and get better at your craft.

Sure, it will take more time because you will be working with one client at a time, but you will learn tons about their deepest pain points and biggest aspirations.

You’ll walk a mile in their shoes. You’ll get the power of personal touch. You’ll understand the nuances of customer service.

Keep perfecting your service. Then, launch a product.

Of course, we both know there could be a bazillion things that could go wrong – but when in doubt, go to #7. Start somewhere. And you’ll be fine.

What lessons have you learned from starting your own business? Tell us in the comments!

Image by Ed Yourdon.

Featured photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/ via flickr.com

More by this author

start an online business 8 Tools to Start an Online Business without Breaking the Bank Resume tools 4 Easy Resume Tools to Breathe Life into Your Resume and Boost Your Chances of Getting Hired starting your own business 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting an Online Business Resume Rejected Was Your Resume Rejected? Here’s What to Do Next 3 Things To Do If You Fear A 3-Step Process to Overcome Fear

Trending in Work

1 How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples) 2 Personal Branding Basics You Need to Know for Career Success 3 How To Work Remotely And Stay Productive 4 How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples) 5 15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

Traditionally, when you have a lot of ideas in your mind, you would create a text document, or take a sheet of paper and start writing in a linear fashion like this:

  • Intro to Visual Facilitation
    • Problem, Consequences, Solution, Benefits, Examples, Call to action
  • Structure
    • Why, What, How to, What If
  • Do It Myself?
    • Audio, Images, time-consuming, less expensive
  • Specialize Offering?
    • Built to Sell (Standard Product Offering), Options (Solving problems, Online calls, Dev projects)

This type of document quickly becomes overwhelming. It obviously lacks in clarity. It also makes it hard for you to get a full picture at a glance and see what is missing.

You always have too much information to look at, and most often you only get a partial view of the information. It’s hard to zoom out, figuratively, and to see the whole hierarchy and how everything is connected.

To see a fuller picture, create a mind map.

What Is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a simple hierarchical radial diagram. In other words, you organize your thoughts around a central idea. This technique is especially useful whenever you need to “dump your brain”, or develop an idea, a project (for example, a new product or service), a problem, a solution, etc. By capturing what you have in your head, you make space for other thoughts.

In this article, we are focusing on the basics: mind mapping using pen and paper.

The objective of a mind map is to clearly visualize all your thoughts and ideas before your eyes. Don’t complicate a mind map with too many colors or distractions. Use different colors only when they serve a purpose. Always keep a mind map simple and easy to follow.

    Image Credit: English Central

    Advertising

    By following the three next steps below, you will be able to create such mind maps easily and quickly.

    3 Simple Steps to Create a Mind Map

    The three steps are:

    1. Set a central topic
    2. Add branches of related ideas
    3. Add sub-branches for more relevant ideas

    Let’s take a look at an example Verbal To Visual illustrates on the benefits of mind mapping.[1]

    Step 1 : Set a Central Topic

    Take a blank sheet of paper, write down the topic you’ve been thinking about: a problem, a decision to make, an idea to develop, or a project to clarify.

    Word it in a clear and concise manner.

      What is the first idea that comes to mind when you think of the subject for your mind map? Draw a line (straight or curved) from the central topic, and write down that idea.

        Step 3 : Add Sub-Branches for More Relevant Ideas

        Then, what does that idea make you think of? What is related to it? List it out next to it in the same way, using your pen.

        Advertising

          You can always add more to it later, but that’s good for now.

          In our example, we could detail the sub-branch “Benefits” by listing those benefits in sub-branches of the branch “Benefits”. Unfortunately, we already reached the side of the sheet, so we’re out of space to do so. You could always draw a line to a white space on the page and list them there, but it’s awkward.

          Since we created this mind map on a regular letter-format sheet of paper, the quantity of information that fits in there is very limited. That is one of the main reasons why I recommend that you use software rather than pen and paper for most of the mind mapping that you do.

          Repeat Step 2 and Step 3

          Repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as you need to flush out all of your ideas around the topic that you chose.

            I added first-level (main) branches around the central topic mostly in a clockwise fashion, from top-right to top-left. That is how, by convention, a mind map is read.

            In the next section, we are covering the three strategies to building your maps.  

            Mind Map Examples to Illustrate Mind Mapping

            You can go about creating a mind map in various ways:

            Advertising

            • Branch by Branch: Adding whole branches (with all of their sub-branches), one by one.
            • Level by Level: Adding elements to the map, one level at a time. That means that firstly, you add elements around the central topic (main branches). Then, you add sub-branches to those main branches. And so on.
            • Free-Flow: Adding elements to your mind map as they come to you, in no particular order.

            Branch by Branch

            Start with the central topic, add a first branch. Focus on that branch and detail it as much as you can by adding all the sub-branches that you can think of.

              Then develop ideas branch by branch.

                A branch after another, and the mind map is complete.

                  Level by Level

                  In this “Level by Level” strategy, you first add all the elements that you can think of around the central topic, one level deep only. So here you add elements on level 1:

                    Then, go over each branch and add the immediate sub-branches (one level only). This is level 2:

                    Advertising

                      Idem for the next level. This is level 3. You can have as many levels as you want in a mind map. In our example, we only have 3 levels. Now the map is complete:

                        Free-Flow

                        Basically, a free flow strategy of mind mapping is to add main branches and sub-topics freely. No rules to restrict how ideas should flow in the mind map. The only thing to pay attention to is that you need to be careful about the level of the ideas you’re adding to the mind map — is it a main topic, or is it a subtopic?

                          I recommend using a combination of the “Branch by Branch” and the “Free-Flow” strategies.

                          What I normally do is I add one branch at a time, and later on review the mind map and add elements in various places to finish it. I also sometimes build level 1 (the main branches) first, then use a “Branch by Branch” approach, and later finish the map in a “Free-Flow” manner.

                          Try each strategy and combinations of strategies, and see what works best for you.

                          The Bottom Line

                          When you’re feeling stuck or when you’re just starting to think about a particular idea or project, take out a paper and start to brain dump your ideas and create a mind map. Mind mapping has the magic to clear your head and have your thoughts organized.

                          If you can’t always have access to a paper and pen, don’t worry! Creating a mind map with software is very effective and you get none of the drawbacks of pen and paper. You can also apply the above steps and strategies just the same when using a mind mapping tool on the phone and computer.

                          More Tools to Help You Organize Thoughts

                          Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

                          Reference

                          Read Next