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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 March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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