Whether it’s offering freelance writing services, blogging on your own website, or operating an e-store, running your own business online has its ups and downs.
Anyone who has their own business has experienced the joy that only being your own boss can bring. But have also experienced the stressful moments too when you wish you were back in a cubical job somewhere, trying to look busy until 5 pm comes around.
It’s worth mentioning straight up that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur—and that’s OK. Really, it’s OK to be an employee. Many employees are happy in their jobs and make good money from top managers and CEOs of companies to low level startup workers. But, let’s be honest, the most spirited, happy and wealthy people (billionaires, even) are entrepreneurs.
If you are an employee and want to climb the cooperate ladder and become the CEO of a large company, go for it! That’s great. All the best on that journey—sincerely. However, if you want to pursue an entrepreneurial path and work online, you'll need to keep some key things in mind that people often don't mention until you’ve already taken the entrepreneurial plunge.
Once you know all that you need to know about starting about starting a business online, you will hopefully feel empowered to make an informed decision about it.
1. Having a great idea is not the most important thing.
Before you start your business, everything will likely be crystal clear. You will have everything figured out—a great idea for business and a great plan for it. But, just like the old boxing quote says, “Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face.”
After a few months into your business, you’ll feel like you’ve gone ten rounds with Floyd Mayweather. At which point, you might get weary. Doubts, competing ideas and alternative plans that don’t really help your bottom line might make you fumble.
That’s why you need to have strong resolve to get through the usually turbulent take off phase. Realize that ideas are only 1% of the equation. Implementing those ideas is the other 99%.
2. You are going to have to work harder than you ever have in your life.
For some reason, when you put the world “online” beside the word “business,” people often breathe a sigh of relief. Something about the word “online” makes it seem like it is easier; as if it’s not a real business with all of the challenges and issues associated with a brick-and-motor business.
The reality, however, is that an online business is a no-holds-barred, bona-fide business. If you are going to succeed in it, you’re going to have to invest similar kind of effort, thought, and time.
So, wipe that smirk of off your face, say goodbye to your weekends and evenings, and brace yourself for work. Just like any other business, you’ll have to work really hard to make it work, especially in the first few months and years.
3. You are going to suck at being your own boss at first.
People think that if you’re your own boss, you’ve made it; that you’re living the life everyone dreams of: no reporting to anyone else, no one telling you what you can and cannot do, and there’s just absolutely nothing standing between you and what you want to do. Ah…isn’t that something! Sure, it’s cool. But what a lot of people don’t tell you is how much work you’re going to have to do on yourself in order to become the type of leader who can actually run a successful business.
As the CEO of your business, you’ll be managing not only yourself, but also others such as employees, customers, partners and investors. And you’ll suck at it at first. It’ll be a never-ending process of personal development that gets trickier as more people get involved in the business.
4. You will be scraping by for a while.
Unless you have a wealthy business partner or a huge savings account, chances are you’ll be scraping by for a while. Financial freedom may be the end-result, but early on, most businesses are bootstrapped or funded by the business-starter's 401K. You’ll soon realize that you cannot go on shopping sprees or take vacations. In fact, you may just barely make enough money to pay the rent. Every decision will look like it’s attached to a financial bob.
Are you prepared to work for the next year (or longer) with little or possibly no profits? How will you support yourself during this period? Think about that.
5. You will wish you worked for someone else sometimes.
People who work for others have the luxury of predictability and consistency. Put in 40 hour of work a week and get a paycheck. Rinse and repeat for 40-50 years and then relax and enjoy a steady retirement check. Unfortunately, owning your own business does not afford you those luxuries. Business-starters don’t know what will happen next week, let alone next year or the year after.
This unpredictability can knock you off your feet if you are not prepared for it. If it doesn’t knock you down, you are going to long for the days when you had the consistency and predictability of a steady paycheck. It may not happen all the time, but it will happen sometimes.
6. You won’t necessarily get sales when you rank high in Google.
Online business owners want their businesses to rank top in search engines like Google because a great placement in search results can drive a lot of business their way. But, ranking number one in Google doesn’t necessarily mean you will make sales.
Google can only get people to the door—it’s your job to show them what to do once on your website. If you haven’t worked that out first, you won’t get far.
Optimize your website's user experience and improve your call-to-action to get the conversions you want, such as get people to buy, enroll to your training course, or subscribe to your newsletter.
7. You will be responsible for everything in your business… everything!
One thing that business owners learn early on, and what separates working for yourself with working for someone else, is that you are responsible for everything in your business. You make all the tough calls and bear the full weight of those decisions. When things are bad, YOU give the final word on how to sort out the problems. The buck stops with you.
It’s exciting to make your own decisions, but it can also be scary. What if you let everyone down? Prepare for an ever rising sea of demands and responsibilities that business owners bear.
8. You will be lonely sometimes.
Business owners spend most of their days in the office working hard to keep things running smoothly. Their hours are nontraditional and they often don’t get to interact with anyone who can relate to the problems, stress, and excitement of running a business.
As such, entrepreneurs often feel lonely sometimes. You won’t be exempted from feeling lonely sometimes too, especially if you run a home-based business solo. It’s recommended to take regular breaks from work and network with groups of like minded business owners online and offline. That way you may beat the loneliness and keep your sanity intact.
9. You will be terrified many times.
Every time you put yourself or your stuff out there will be terrifying. It’s almost similar to exposing your heart to be shot at by anybody. And that’s not easy.
When launching a new product, promoting your work, asking for help—you are vulnerable. But, you have to face the possibility of ridicule and showcase/promote what you have to offer regardless.
Fear and anxiety can hold you back and keep you from success if you let it. Focus not on your fears but on your hopes and dreams. In other words, live your dreams not your fears!
10. You will meet online celebrities and famous people while networking.
Growing a business online requires a lot of networking and promoting on the blogosphere, including social media. You may find yourself reaching out to influencers, gurus, and celebrities in your space, and end up meeting or even working with them. That is pretty exciting, but it can also be a little intimidating, especially if you are an introvert who prefers to avoid the limelight.
Keep that in mind because it’s likely to happen.
11. You might become a celebrity yourself when your business reaches a certain level of growth.
If you think meeting celebrities is intimidating, wait until you realize you are becoming a celebrity yourself! Many of the people you look up to in business - the gurus and “A-listers” - started out just as you are—simple and lowly. They are famous because they’ve beaten the odds.
Guess what? You can beat the odds too and grow your business to great heights. Articles might be written about you and your business might start to feature frequently in major media outlets. Before you know it, you are a celebrity. It happened to Perez Hilton; it happened to Pete Cashmore; it can happen to you.
Fame and recognition is a tricky thing, though. It takes just as much as it gives. Prepare well for it.
12. It can take you way longer than you might think.
Ben Silbermann, the founder of Pinterest, quit his job at Google in 2008 to pursue his own startup. The first app he created was called Tote. It flopped, but he kept at it. He built another app called Pinterest and launched it in 2010. Three years later, its user base grew to 25 million. Today, Pinterest has more than 400 million monthly active users.
People only see the rapid growth of Pinterest. But, Ben was grinding it out a total of seven years before making it big. Even Steve Jobs didn’t really get on the map until the Macintosh was invented eight years after Apple Inc. was founded.
Building a successful business often takes time. Way more time than most people think. You may want to double or triple whatever number of years you think it will take you to get to where you want to be.
13. It may not work at all.
Even after investing all your time, energy and money, there is still a strong possibility that your business may fail. This is simply a statistical reality. More than 90% of startups fail within 3 years, due to self-destruction rather than competition. If you are afraid of failing or are afraid of the challenges that come with owning a business, you may want to reconsider being self-employed.
If, on the other hand, you are not afraid of failing and are not dissuaded from pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams, that’s a sign you may have what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur.
Take the hard times and remember them in the good times. Without the bad, it’s hard to appreciate the good. And, remember, as French playwright Molière said, “The greater the obstacle; the more glory in overcoming it.”