I was once asked the following question by someone on my email list: "If there's some advice you wish you'd received before starting an online business, what would it be?". It's a great question, and one I'll examine here as I'd imagine my answer would be very useful to all those about to embark on the amazing adventure of beginning, and hopefully growing, a profitable online venture.
It Takes More Work Than You Might Imagine
Anyone I've ever met in business will agree on one thing. It takes a huge amount of work and effort to start and grow a business. And it's a continual, and often steep, learning curve every step of the way.
The best thing you can do on starting out is to have accurate expectations on what your journey to success will be like.
So don't buy into the hype that is sometimes still perpetuated about the possibilities for overnight success, about the '4 hour work week', the ease with which you can grow a successful business, and so on. If you believe that when you first start in business, or that there's a 'secret key' to success, you're setting yourself up for early disillusionment, demotivation, and failure.
On the other hand, if you're ready to put the work in, to meet the challenge head on, and throw everything you've got at it (and then some!), you're far more likely to succeed.
For the first few months at least - but more realistically, years - it can involve twelve hour days (often more), seven days a week. It's all consuming, and can take over every aspect of your life as you know it.
You need the absolute dedication, commitment and drive it takes to succeed. Even when 'successful', there will be bumps in the road, down times, times when it seems nothing's going your way and you feel close to accepting defeat and giving in.
But it's at times like these when the wheat's separated from the chaff, and true success is actually created. You pick yourself up off the floor yet again, figure out what the experience is trying to teach you, and keep on going on. One thing's guaranteed - if you do stop, you fail. If you're going to succeed, failure's not an option.
(Study the back-story of anyone who you consider to be very successful, and you'll find they've all had their moments. For example, the vast majority have been through bankruptcy, and some of those more than once. Just one example would be Donald Trump who has so far filed for bankruptcy four times.)
So in summary, prepare for hard work, give it all you've got, and persevere through the hard times. Ultimately, the rewards are there if you're prepared to rise to the challenge. And the best reward is actually the journey itself.
Don't Fear Failure - Just Do It Anyway
It might be a good idea to pick up a copy of Susan Jeffers' best-selling book, 'Feel The Fear … And Do It Anyway'.
So many people never start their business in the first place simply because they fear it won't work, they'll be made to look a fool, they'll lose everything, and so on. Or they'll find excuses in the form of other things they need to do first before they can start - but ultimately all rooted in fear of failure.
And so they never become all they can be, never reach their full potential in terms of what they can offer to the world, and live a life of regrets and unfulfilled dreams.
That's not just a loss to them, but a loss to the rest of society in terms of the unique value they could have offered.
So my best advice would be to acknowledge you're fearful - that's perfectly normal - but just to start anyway and see where your journey takes you. Unless you start, you've failed before you've even begun - and to me that's a great deal more scary than embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.
Define Your Goals - And Maintain Your Focus
Any journey needs a destination, and starting an online business is no different.
In starting a business, you need to decide what your goals are. And be precise. What exactly are you looking to achieve?
Once they're defined, you then need to fully commit to achieving them. I don't want to get too metaphysical, but the universe has an uncanny knack of conspiring to deliver what you're fully focused on achieving.
Keep focusing on your goals until you achieve them. Find what works for you in order to keep your focus laser-sharp. For example, stick them on the wall or your bathroom mirror, convert them into affirmations to recite day and night, commit to achieving them with friends and family, or any combination.
Finally, understand that while focus on your goals is important, they're not set in stone. Circumstances change, as do your own needs and desires, and you should be willing to adjust them as you go forward. If your goals no longer make sense for you or stop resonating, adjust them accordingly. They can be as flexible as you need them to be, but the important point is to know where you're headed and what you're working towards.
Avoid Information Overload - Find Some Key Mentors
There's so much information out there, a lot of it contradictory, it can leave you in a form of analysis paralysis and you just don't know which way to go. That's true whether you're just starting an online business, or you're five years down the road.
The truth is, there is no right way, different tactics and strategies will work for different businesses at different times, and may or may not work for you.
I'd advise to follow a few key mentors, and use their information to guide you, but ultimately you need to find out for yourself whether something works or not and your own experience will increasingly become your guide.
Listen To Your Market - And Adjust Accordingly
As your business develops and you start gathering leads and your first few sales, you'll start receiving feedback. This may be negative or positive, but the negative messages you receive will actually be most useful for the ongoing success of your business.
- What are your customers frustrated by? What could you deliver to ensure greater levels of satisfaction, and thereby hopefully increasing levels of referrals to other potential customers for your business?
- What are your leads or prospective customers asking you about? Are you delivering what they are looking for? It could be that your original idea for a business needs completely overhauling in order to actually deliver what the market is looking for.
If so, don't stubbornly stick to your original idea when a potentially far more profitable one is staring you in the face. Many successful businesses end up delivering products and services radically different from ones the business owner originally envisaged.
The best type of market research isn't doing endless surveys before you even start a business. It's diving straight in, and then listening carefully to your market and adjusting your business accordingly to match.
Decide To Succeed
Ultimately however, the most important advice would be that you need to decide to succeed and absolutely commit to it. There can be no turning back or retreating to your old, familiar zones of comfort. It's got to be something you commit to at a deep, internal level.
As Tony Robbins once said, "It's in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped."
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Steve Shaw has run successful online businesses since 2002, selling millions of dollars worth of digital products and services to customers worldwide. SubmitYourArticle.com helps businesses build traffic and increase their online visibility - grab a 100% FREE account now at SubmitYourArticle.com. (Slideshare presentation: starting an online business)
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