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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.)

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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!

Image by Ed Yourdon.

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

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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