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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting an Online Business

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Image by Ed Yourdon.

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

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Last Updated on August 25, 2021

Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

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Why Personal Branding Is Important to Your Career

As a recruiter, I have met and interviewed hundreds of candidates who have no idea who they are.

Without a personal brand, candidates struggle to answer the question: “tell me about yourself—who are you?” They have no idea about who they are, what their strengths are, and how they can add value to the company. They present their CV’s believing that their CV is the key to their career success. In some ways, your CV still has its use. However, in today’s job market, you need more than a CV to stand out in a crowd.

According to Celinne Da Costa:[1]

“Personal brand is essentially your golden ticket to networking with the right people, getting hired for a dream job, or building an influential business.” She believes that “a strong personal brand allows you to stand out in an oversaturated marketplace by exposing desired audiences to your vision, skillset, and personality in a way that is strategically aligned with your career goals.”

A personal brand opens up your world to so many more career opportunities that you would never have been exposed to with just your CV.

What Is Your Personal Brand?

“Personal branding is how you distinctively market your uniqueness.” —Bernard Kelvin Clive

Today, the job market is very competitive and tough. Having a great CV will only let you go so far because everyone has a CV, but no one else has your distinct personal brand! It is your personal brand that differentiates you from everyone else and that is what people buy—you.

Your personal brand is your mark on the world. It is how people you interact with and the world see you. It is your legacy—it is more important than a business brand because your personal brand lasts forever.

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I have coached people who have very successful careers, and they come to me because they have suddenly found that they are not getting the opportunities or having the conversations that would them to their next role. They are having what I call a “career meltdown,” all because they have no personal brand.

A personal brand helps you become conscious of your differences and your uniqueness. It allows you to position yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the pack, especially among other potential job applicants.

Don’t get me wrong, having a great CV and a great LinkedIn profile is important. However, there are a few steps that you have to take to have a CV and LinkedIn profile that is aligned to who you are, the value you offer to the market, and the personal guarantee that you deliver results.

Building your personal brand is about strategically, creatively, and professionally presenting what makes you, you. Knowing who you are and the value you bring to the table enables you to be more informed, agile, and adaptable to the changing dynamic world of work. This is how you can avoid having a series of career meltdowns.

Your Personal Brand Is Essential for Your Career Success

In her article, Why Personal Branding Is More Important Than Ever, Caroline Castrillon outlines key reasons why a personal brand is essential for career success.

According to Castrillon,[2]

“One reason is that it is more popular for recruiters to use social media during the interview process. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees.”

The first thing I do as a recruiter when I want to check out a candidate or coaching client is to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your digital footprint is the window that highlights to the world who you are. When you have no control over how you want to be seen, you are making a big mistake because you are leaving it up to someone else to make a judgment for you as to who you are.

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As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

In her book, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about the importance of having a personal brand and her journey to defining her personal brand. She wrote that:

“if you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”

When you have a personal brand, you are in control. You know exactly what people will say about you when you leave the room.

The magic of a personal brand is that gives you control over how you want to be seen in the world. Your confidence and self-belief enable you to leverage opportunities and make informed decisions about your career and your future. You no longer experience the frustrations of a career meltdown or being at a crossroads not knowing what to do next with your career or your life. With a personal brand, you have focus, clarity, and a strategy to move forward toward future success.

Creating your personal brand does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and self-reflection. You will be expected to step outside of your comfort zone not once, but many times.

The good news is that the more time you spend outside of your comfort zone, the more you will like being there. Being outside of your comfort zone is where you can test the viability of and fine-tune your personal brand.

5 Key Steps to Creating Your Personal Brand

These five steps will help you create a personal brand that will deliver you the results you desire with your career and in life.

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1. Set Your Personal Goals

What is it that you want to do in the next five years? What will your future self be doing in the next five to ten years? What is important to you? If you can answer these questions, then you are on the right path. If not, then you have to start thinking about them.

2. Create Your Unique Value Proposition

Create your unique value proposition by asking yourself these four questions:

  1. What are your personality features? What benefit do you offer people?
  2. Who are you and why do people enjoy working with you?
  3. What do you do and what do people want you to do for them? How do you solve their problems?
  4. What makes you different from others like you?

The answers to these questions will give you the information you need to create your professional story, which is the key step to creating your personal brand.

3. Write Your Professional Story

Knowing who you are, what you want, and the unique value you offer is essential to you creating your professional story. People remember stories. Your personal story incorporates your value proposition and tells people who you are and what makes you unique. This is what people will remember about you.

4. Determine Which Platforms Will Support Your Personal Brand

Decide which social media accounts and online platforms will best represent your brand and allow you to share your voice. In a professional capacity, having a LinkedIn profile and a CV that reflects your brand is key to your positioning in relation to role opportunities. People will be connecting with you because they will like the story you are telling.

5. Become Recognized for Sharing Your Knowledge and Expertise

A great way for you to promote yourself is by sharing knowledge and helping others. This is where you prove you know your stuff and you gain exposure for doing so. You can do this through social media, writing, commenting, video, joining professional groups, networking, etc. Find your own style and uniqueness and use it to attract clients, the opportunities, or the jobs you desire.

The importance of having a personal brand is not going to go away. In fact, it is the only way where you can stand out and be unique in a complex changing world of work. If you don’t have a personal brand, someone will do it for you. If you let this happen, you have no control and you may not like the story they create.

Standing out from others takes time and investment. Most people cannot make the change by themselves, and this is where engaging a personal brand coach is a viable option to consider.

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As a personal brand coach, working with my clients to create their personal brand is my passion. I love the fact that we can work together to create a personal story that defines exactly what people will say when you leave the room.

Other People’s Stories

Listening to other people’s stories is a great way to learn. In his article, 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding, Rafael Dos Santos presents the best Ted Talks where speakers share their stories about the “why,” “what,” and “how” of personal branding.((GuidedPR: 7 TED Talks About Personal Branding))

Take some time out to listen to these speakers sharing their stories and thoughts about personal branding. You will definitely learn so much about how you can start your journey of defining yourself and taking control of your professional and personal life.

Your personal brand, without a doubt, is your secret weapon to your career success. As Michelle Obama said,

“your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

So, go own your story. Go on the journey to create your personal brand that defines who you are, highlights your uniqueness, and the value you offer to the world.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

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