Since childhood I’ve always dreamed of being a writer. In elementary school I told ghost stories on rainy days when the playground was too soaked for playing. I wrote silly poems in class that made my friends laugh.
For many years I was focused on publishing a children’s book. But the road was long and spending 6-10 months waiting for rejections in an impossibly competitive, over-saturated market eventually wore on me.
But I didn’t give up on my dream. I was still laser focused on being a writer, I just decided to try it in a different capacity by starting a blog. It was relatively inexpensive, and I could publish my writing whenever I wanted. No more waiting months upon months to get a big fat rejection letter.
In addition to writing, I’ve always been passionate about creating resources to help people in their careers. Starting a career blog was the perfect intersection of my dream to write and also my passion for helping people.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I wasn’t just starting a blog. I was really starting an online business.
As I started writing blog articles, I simultaneously started creating resources and tools to help people in their careers. That quickly transitioned into creating affordable online career products to sell. And suddenly I was no longer a blogger, but an entrepreneur.
And that scared the crap out of me. I’ve never thought about being an “entrepreneur.” Even typing the word now makes my heard jump a little (um, imposter syndrome, anyone?).
If you are considering starting or have started an online business you can probably relate. It’s pretty freaking intimidating, right? And scary and exciting. And did I mention scary?
One of the most common fears when starting an online business is making mistakes. But what I’ve learned is that you have to make mistakes (like, a lot of them) in order to learn and grow your business.
Read on for the top mistakes I’ve made since starting my business (and what I’ve learned):
Mistake #1: Not having a clear focus
When I started my blog I thought at first that I wanted to help high school and college-aged students. I had been working in higher education as a career coach for the majority of my career, so high school and college-aged populations was what I knew. So it was a no-brainer that Gen X and Millenials were the populations that I would blog about and create resources around.
However, I quickly learned that the population and topic I was targeting did not speak to my heart. I wasn’t walking in high school or college kids’ shoes. My voice in my blog articles felt authoritative, like a parent talking to a kid. Yuck. Definitely not the way I wanted my blog to sound.
I thought about what I was living, which was balancing life and career as a new mom. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks (but in a good way). I could blog about finding a fulfilling career as a mama! That was my “aha” moment.
Get clear about your focus early on. You should be able to explain in one sentence what your business is all about. Mine is: I help moms reinvent their careers. It’s only taken me a year and half to narrow that down! Sigh.
- First, figure out your target population
- Second, figure out their immediate need, or problem you can help solve
In other words, who do you want to help, and what do they need help with? It sounds pretty simple. However, it takes time to narrow this down. The earlier you figure it out, the better!
See related: How to Start a Blog in Five Easy Steps
Mistake #2: Trying to do it all
When I first started my online business I tried to be a blogger, a You Tuber, an Instagram influencer (I still don’t know exactly what that is), and have 1,000+ Facebook fans.
As I tried to be everywhere and do everything, I quickly realized I wasn’t getting anywhere.
My advice: start with what you’re naturally good at. For example, my strength is writing, so I decided to focus on building my blog and writing quality content.
I am not one of those super bubbly, extroverted people who loves being in front of a camera. Suffice it to say I’ve put my You Tube channel and TikTok on the back burner for now. Down the road I can try different mediums (including vlogging), but focusing on one platform has allowed me to master it and not be too overwhelmed.
See related: How to Pick the Perfect Blog Topic
Mistake #3: Being impatient
I have to admit I have the patience of a four-year-old when it comes to the success of my business (and I know this for a fact because I have an impatient four-year-old son).
But I have learned that starting an online business takes time. And lots and lots and lots of patience. So instead of driving myself bonkers, I work every day at celebrating the small successes and taking baby steps.
Please forgive me for this horribly overused cliche, but it really is all about the journey.
If you want to start a business or blog because you want to make money or get rich quick, you are setting yourself up for some major disappointment (and major temper tantrums)!
But if you pick something you are passionate about where you are using your natural strengths, and you’re willing to invest time, you will eventually succeed!
See related: Three Step Recipe for Writing a Great Blog Post
Mistake #4: Hiring an overpriced web designer
When I started my blog I got the brilliant idea that I could simply hire a magical web designer. A designer who could create the most amazing website for me and do everything technical that I didn’t want to do.
I would have a kick-ass website that would bring in tons of traffic and sales and I would live happily ever after.
It’s obvious where this story is heading. Hire a web designer I did. But he was not wonderful and he did not make me a kick-ass website. Instead he threw together a generic, build-a-bear website on Wix and charged me $1500 for it.
I quickly learned that Wix is incredibly limiting if you are creating an online business or if you want to monetize your blog in any way. Luckily for me I was able to get half my money back and learned a very valuable lesson. Okay maybe two lessons:
- Don’t make a website on Wix (unless you want a hobby blog)
- Do your due diligence before hiring a designer
Long story short, I wound up paying another web designer to move my site from Wix to Wordpress. Ugh. But it had to be done.
It was a costly mistake, but one I will hopefully not repeat again.
If you want to start a blog to better market your online business, do your research and figure out the best platform for you. Professional groups on Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to ask for recommendations for web designers or whatever service you need help with.
Ultimately it’s up to you to decide whether to hire out for something or do it yourself. Keep in mind, if you want to go a more budget-friendly route at first, there are TONS of free tutorials on YouTube that will teach you how to set up a basic WordPress or Squarespace site. Later on down the road when you start to make money, you can hire a professional.
Mistake #5: Selling products too quickly
It is tempting to try to sell a product right away so you can start making income. On one hand you could argue that the best way to learn how to sell a great product is to just jump in and try it (aka trial and error).
On the other hand, doing it this way can get costly. Because unfortunately it’s not as simple as creating a product and selling it.
I’ve learned the hard way that creating a product is the easy and fun part (yay!!!). Learning how to successfully market said product so that people actually buy it is the hard and costly part (boo!!!).
For me personally, I’ve learned the most by creating successful lead magnets (aka freebies) and marketing them on Facebook and Pinterest, while simultaneously building my email list (or subscriber list). You will quickly find that getting people to give your their email address for a freebie is hard. Convincing them to enter their credit card information and purchase a product is really hard.
If you take any course in building a blog or online business, there is going to be one main take-away. And that take away is: the bulk of your future customers are your email subscribers. Hence, one of the first things you need to do is build your email list!
Once you get a few hundred subscribers, you can start testing the waters to see what your target audience really needs. You can even send out a survey and let your audience tell you exactly what kind of product you need to create.
Mistake #6: Not taking action
Okay I realize I am about to sound a little contradictory here, but try not to wait too long to take action.
In other words, don’t be so scared of making mistakes that you never actually write a blog post, or create a You Tube video, or launch that amazing product.
Nothing has to be perfect. Seriously. Let this bring you some comfort: when you start your business, nobody is really going to your site (yet). You can always go back and edit blog posts, or redo videos, or revamp your products.
Testing the waters, trying new things, and again, making mistakes is the only way you will learn and improve!
Starting an online business is hard work. But if you’ve got a clear vision, passion, and most of all, patience, it can be an incredible career opportunity!
Do you have your own personal story about starting an online business? Go ahead and share it below. We’d love to hear from you!