8 Things I Wish I’d Known About Running An Online Business - Before I Started!

Jul 04, 2023
woman sitting meditating on a misty hillside

Things are tough out there at the moment, so I want to take a moment to share my thoughts on how we can all make things a bit easier, especially if you're just starting out.

Most importantly, I want to share that so many of the tricky things you experience online are either 1. not your fault, or 2. can be easily solved with a different approach.

And, even if you've been at this online business thing for a while, have a read, you might remember something promised you'd do, but in the maelstrom that is running your own biz, you just forget to do!

Ignore The Snake Oil Sellers

The most important thing I’ve learnt, and that I want to share with you if you’re at the start of your online business journey, is that setting up and running a successful online business is bloody hard work.

I get so pissed off with all the chat about having a one-page website, creating a course, and overnight, they’ve got $50k in their pocket.

It’s genuinely not sour grapes. Did they tell you about the months of work they did to optimise that one page or the FB ad spend they put in that meant the $50k sales left them with a $1k profit?

Now, they might have struck gold straight out the gates. Overnight success does happen, but it’s not normal.

So, Ignore the overnight success snake oil sellers. Keep your head down, and don’t give up.

Remember that old joke?

A tourist was in New York, completely lost, trying to get to a concert at Carnegie Hall.  It was long before Google Maps, so when he saw a man carrying a violin case, he stopped and asked, “Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”  

The musician smiled and said, “Practice, practice, practice.”

Let’s change that to keep going, keep going, keep going, and you’ll get there in your own time.

Pick A Channel And Get Good At It.

We’re told that unless we’re blogging 7 days a week and showing up on TickTock 5 times a day, as well as posting daily on Insta and Facebook and writing articles on LinkedIn, launching a podcast, getting setting up YouTube, running a challenge and launching a new product every month, our business is going to fail.

You 100% need to market your business, but you don’t have to do ALL the things.

Sometimes it feels like being in a crowded marketplace, with everyone shouting at you, telling you their way is the best way…so you come home with a basket full of strategies you try to implement all at the same time, and you end up overwhelmed and doing nothing!

Pick a marketing channel, get good at it and add another.

I’m now using FB, LinkedIn, Insta, and I blog, and I’m working on building up my YouTube channel.

But I added them one by one.

Also, don’t be pressured into marketing your business using channels you hate.

I can’t stand Twitter, and I dislike TickTock with a passion.  So, after a little bit of experimentation, I ditched them.

Don’t do anything you don’t want to just because someone told you to.

Be Kind To Yourself.

I’ve run my online business through the death of both of my parents, the pandemic, depression, long Covid, running our home, loving three teenagers through some pretty tough times, playing my part in keeping a 20+ year marriage happy and the joys of perimenopause.

Please don’t do what I did and brush everything off as something to be dismissed if it isn’t going to help you grow your business.

I ended up completely burned out, with my business hanging on by a thread because I didn’t take the time to take care of myself.

Please don’t be like me. 

Being unkind to myself didn’t make me any more successful.

There Are Some Very Odd People Out There!

The internet is a very strange place, and it does things to people.

They say things they’d never say in real life and behave in ways that would never be acceptable if they were with you in person.

I don’t know what happens; some people turn some filter off when they open their laptops and turn into very odd and, quite often, unpleasant people.

I’ve been told I’m stupid, a liar, that I’m a terrible person, and I’m a disgrace.

I’ve also been asked for ridiculous discounts, to return people’s money for work I’ve already done because they need it for something else and that I’m a useless coach because I’m married with children (????)  to give you just a few examples.

Now, there’s always a place for constructive feedback and improving your client’s experience, but honestly, some of the shit you have to deal with online is beyond belief, and 99% of the time, it’s them problem, not a you problem!

Maybe I should start skin-thickening training for all online business newbies!

Get Yourself Some Boundaries - Quick!

It’s much easier to start out with boundaries than it is to announce them once you’ve given away your heart and soul!

Make sure you’ve got a super clear refund policy, and your T&Cs are in place for EVERY offer you ever create. And make them obvious when people sign up.

Make it super clear when you’re available, your working hours, when you’ll get back to them, group rules.

Set up your calendar so people can’t book calls when you don’t want to be available.

Say no to work you know is going to be a nightmare - it won’t magically change into a great project - even if you need the money.

Set out really clear project scopes and make it clear what your deliverables are.

Then, when someone pushes up against them, remind them what you’ve got in place.

I HATE confrontation, and having boundaries means I can let them do the heavy lifting for me.

It makes your clients or followers' lives easier too. They know what to expect when to expect an answer, and they know how things are going to work, so there are no surprises or awkward convos.

Don’t Try To Be Good At Everything!

I have this fantasy. You see, in my mind, I’m an incredible designer, and I can knock out amazing Insta feeds and gorgeous presentations at the drop of a hat.

The reality is I can see exactly what I want it to look like in my head, but when I get into Canva, 4 hours and a nervous breakdown later, this is the kind of thing I’ll have come up with!

I’m useless at it, so I try to outsource as much of what I’m not good at out.

And it doesn’t have to be expensive.

What is it for you? Blog writing, social media, course creation, bookkeeping????

Now outsource it!

It’s OK to have a break - or a side side hustle.

It is REALLY tough out there at the moment.

Over the weekend, I was talking to 2 women who run online businesses, and they were both saying it was bloody hard work finding clients at the moment.

So, if you need to get a JOB for a bit, while you keep your online biz ticking over, or you need a bit of cash from doing something that isn’t the “time, money, soul freedom” dream we’ve all bought into, that’s fine.

I hereby give you permission to sit under strip lights if you need to for 6 months while you get back on track financially and come back to the online business table much more relaxed and in control.

Just don’t give up on your biz completely.  Keep it ticking over while you’re doing a cubicle-dwelling stint!

And Finally, A Word If You’re A Midlifer

If you’re a midlifer and you’re trying to run an online business while battling through feeling like a bloated wreck, hot flushes, soul-biting anxiety, brain fog that’s got you wondering if you’ve got early onset dementia and Nietzsche-level existential angst about your future, then I just want to say you are absolutely f’ing brilliant and I love you.

Just keep going.  

I’m told I will get better.

I’m still waiting!

What Would You Say?

So that’s what I’ve got to share.

What have you learnt from being in business? 

What advice would you give yourself if you were starting again?

Let me know in the comments!


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