You can’t stay long enough on the internet without bumping into one or two stories talking about how someone built a six-figure business out of their blog or by just freelancing. Or how you can spend most of your time at the beach, working only for a few hours, and yet still make enough to travel around the world; all because you have an online business.
None of these is a lie, of course, they are authentic and amazing perks that owning an online business afford you. And according to studies, we’ve not even seen anything yet; better days are yet to come. To cut short the story, there are literally bazillion ways to make money on the internet.
That said, there are still people who, after long years of experimenting and reading materials on how to start this internet business thing, still struggle to make enough to feed.
To these people, this internet business thing isn’t real. But it is. I can count without blinking, hundreds of bloggers, content marketers, e-commerce, and retail store owners who turned their business into a six figure generating (I’m being modest) business under a year.
Back in August last year, the famous writer/blogger, Bamidele Onibulasi of Writers In Charge, launched a Facebook community where “newbie” freelance writers are mentored on how they can make their first one thousand dollars in 60 days. The result was astonishing; many even made more in less time. Nick Darlington, Richards Rowlands, Yassir Sahnoun, Ciaran Gillian are all great products of that challenge. Together, they launched their own blog, “WriteWorldwide”, a community that also teaches aspiring freelance writers how to get it done.
If by any chance you’re one of these people (doubters), there’s no need to argue over the fact that you’ve been doing so many things wrongly, and this article is about those things and how to fix them.
Even if you don’t have an online business yet, you will still find this valuable.
Why is this important?
Why you should care…
“Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others.” ~Otto von Bismarck
I know you are probably like these people; you want to quit your 9-5 job (or don’t want to go back in case you left already), you also want to travel around the world doing what you love while only working only for few hours – whichever is your choice. Achieving this is daunting, no doubt, and the real obstacle on your way is settling for mediocrity, not the truckloads of work it requires.
See, putting a half-assed effort into anything is dangerous to yourself and your career. There is an old saying that if anything should be done at all, it should be done well (if it is worth doing, then it is worth doing well). You dread going back to your 9-5 job I know, but that’s what things will end to if you don’t turn the obstacle itself to the way.
These are some of the mistakes I made myself as a beginner.
Again, remember, you can always choose to experience be your teacher, but it is better to learn from the experience of others.
1. You’ve Got no Blueprint – Purpose
I cringe as I write this because it is really about me and the number one mistake I made when I started.
It took me three websites/blogs and two solid years, and several other failed business ideas before I could make my first dollar online.
You know why?
All my previous businesses lacked a roadmap and blueprint. I will break them down in a bit.
When I started, I had no clue about many things I know today.
I started a blog where I wrote some topics I knew and somehow, hoped I will be able to monetize it in the future. Or like Neil Gaiman once said in his Make Good Art speech: putting a message in bottles and tossing them into the river and hoping someone will find them, read them, and put something in a bottle that will somehow find its way back to you.
Now, it’s totally cool if you want to write blogs just to air your opinions, teach what you know without thinking about making money. But totally uncool if you call it a business and can’t figure out how it will generate revenue.
It’s a sign that you’re not solving any problem or not willing to.
I also had no clue if anyone needed what I was making and if there are, how to reach them. In my head, those things were too cool for anyone to ignore. I did this for many months before realizing I needed to shift the gear.
The second blog was better, I was teaching writing productivity, which is good because unlike the previous ones, there are people who need this. But then, it lacked the other ingredients which are how to reach those who need my contents.
No need to mention that those my endeavours lacked a blueprint. You need to do better…
How to fix this
– Define your motivation. The number one determinant of success for any business is knowing why it exists in the first place. And that starts with questions like, “What important problem am I solving?” “Will this lessen anyone’s burden?” Your failure to answer any of those questions could be the reason why you aren’t making money online.
– Find your target. These are the people whose problems you’re solving. The prospective users of your product or service.
– Determine how you intend to reach them. Your blog itself isn’t a business, it’s only one of those vehicles for reaching your customers. There are thousands of ways — both inbounds and outbounds — to reach your customers. It’s important you find these means.
2. You think the internet offers the easiest ways to make money – Another mistake I made
I had no troubles choosing online business as my next point of call when my last offline business plunged its nose down to the ground and eventually got burned out and I was left with a huge debt.
I had read lots of contents about crazy money that internet entrepreneurs make which seemed like the easiest way out of those messes was in.
I took the advice literally and dived in.
Two failed blogs that generated zero revenues. I also acquired more debts.
Every cold email with no response got me more depressed. I negotiated gigs against myself because I was just too desperate to make the money. I was a slave to money. I wasted 2 solid years of my life chasing money without thinking of the value I was creating first.
The good thing about the internet is people can sense your desperation for money from afar. It’s worse if you get found out and called out that you’re just a phony like Carol Tice wrote in this article.
How to fix this.
I get it, it’s hard not to be desperate about solving your financial troubles. I also doubt there is anyone out there who wants to wake up to a fat bank account balance without sweating for it at least. I don’t think such people exist. Same thing goes for everyone on the internet.
Life happens to people and I totally get your desperation to make money to get out of the hole you’re in right now. But the quickest way to fail is to not be ready to get your hands dirty.
There are myriads of ways to solve this.
– Understand business is not about making money, but the side effect of value creation. So, think of value first.
– If money is all you care about, look for other sources of making it offline –there are thousands of them.
– Start it as a side hustle. The preachers of online business gospel fail to add a caveat which is, never should you quit your job to start an online business. Quit your job and pursue your passion is bad advice, start on the side, save enough and dive in seems like a better one.
Your business, irrespective of the fact that it is resident in the cloud is still a business nonetheless. No business begins operation without some backup funds, doing otherwise is a recipe for failure.
3. You Don’t Even Believe in Your Own Ability to Make Money Online
Belief plays a crucial role in all you do. Athletes who overrate their own skill outperform those who don’t. It’s true. There is a saying that a man is (sometimes) what he sees himself to be.
If you think there’s nothing special about what you do, you feel like a fraud asking for the right fee. It’s psychological and something every artist and business owner have to deal with.
Once, a client approached me for a gig. The project was a big one; so huge I began working on it without negotiating a fee.
When he eventually asked how much I was willing to take, I got terrified it took me hours and hours of teeth-gnashing and hitting my head against the desk.
At this point, I was willing to walk away. When I eventually decided to say something, I gave him times four of what I would have charged normally. To my surprise, the client only asked to take a couple of dollar off, which I gladly agreed to.
Do you want to know the sad thing about low balling?
You don’t get valued. It’s human and psychological.
How to Fix This:
– Go see a shrink! Seriously you need one. You could be suffering from what they call impostor syndrome.
– Do a serious skill evaluation
– Know what you’re worth and stick to it
4. You’re Not Doing Enough of Productive Work.
Your ability to differentiate being in motion from taking real action goes a long way and is a great success determinant. It involves blocking out distractions and doing the actual work – something a lot struggle against. Some are not even conscious of this.
So, what’s “the” actual work, what’s motion?
– If reading books, articles, blogs about what works in your industry and whatnots make you feel like you’re getting something done, you’re in motion which is not the same as taking action.
– If you’d rather care about the looks of your website, spending hours tweaking things, instead of putting contents on it, you’re in motion not taking action.
– If you read a lot about cold calling, emailing or “10 surefire ways to write a pitch that works” but fail to act, you’re in motion, not taking action.
Not that these things are insidious or bad, but there is a thin line between adequate preparation and inactivity. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is the fact that, over-preparation could lead to analysis paralysis and before you know, you get more confused, abandoned the work, then again, you start feeling guilty about not doing the actual work.
Doing productive works involves knowing what’s within your control and fixing what’s not.
The latter part can be outsourced if it’s so important.
Does staring at your computer reading articles about the latest trend in your industry makes you feel like you’re doing the actual work?
How to fix this…
– Have some works outsourced
– Be religious about ticking something off your to-do list
– Always spell out your targets for everyday
5. You’re just too Distracted
One of the ills of the internet is that there are just too many noises.
One minute you’re reading about a startup that just got sold for a billion dollars, the next, another blogger that an agent helped seal a deal of $250k for a book, and he’s even got an advance.
The next thing, you’re thinking of packing bags off to the Himalayas, then to everywhere!
I’ve never seen a surer way to fail than this. This only shows you lack focus.
How to fix this
– Reduce your source of information
– Unsubscribe from blogs that are not adding value to you right now
– Always ask yourself what you want right now. I mean right now.
6. You’re not willing to learn
Most people fail to breakthrough because they’re unwilling to learn about what works in their chosen industry or niche. I know those who think—especially the get-rich-quick guys—making money online is hard because there’s just too much to learn.
For these people asking them to learn the basic SEO tactics to improve their website traffic is like asking them to climb Mountain Everest. They won’t do it.
We are in an ever-changing digital world, therefore, skill accumulation becomes important. You must always study “big boys” of whatever industry you’re in for what they do and be willing to learn and implement them.
Breaking into any industry include learning about it.
In fact, there is no successful person online who hasn’t had to reinvent themselves over and over –especially when the need arises.
– Know the skill and go learn it
7. You Are So So Over Yourself –You Hate Connecting with People
Do you pride yourself on being a lone-wolf park offline? Sorry pal, this is the blogosphere. No one’s got time for that here. If anything, you need people more than people need you.
I used to pride myself on being a loner. Call it insecurity, shyness or plain arrogance, I just had trouble reaching out. Sending a fan email and giving someone you admire props was a big deal.
Of course, like every other vice, the negative effect it had on my business and career was astronomical – extremely bad, if you know what I mean.
The lesson I learned the hard way?
Having a great idea is nowhere compared to having people to sell it to. Even when you don’t have those people to sell to, there is always that person who know someone who knows someone that needs your product or service. When the time comes, it is these people who you’d reach out to.
For every successful online entrepreneur I follow today, I got to know through another successful one I was following. Also, every course and product I’ve bought online were recommended by another person whose advice I trusted. So the chain goes. Your worth is your network.
How to Fix this.
Reading Keith Ferazzi’s Never Eat Alone was the turning point in my life as far as networking was a concern. Ever since I’ve become deliberate about connecting with people I admire or like. Some of them are now the coolest in my life.
Here are some tricks to building a strong network:
- Build your connections long before you need them; few of us will listen to a stranger asking for help
- Make a meaningful impact Make a meaningful impact
- Be generous with giving credit
- Always send a fan mail.
- Reach out to people who would help – connect through various social media sites.
- Display some level of humility when connecting
- Show genuine interest in those people.
The need to connect on or offline can never be overstated. Experience has taught me that sometimes, the gap between your first and a thousandneth sale as a business owner is usually determined by who you know.
How many of what’s on this list are you guilty of? One? Two? Perhaps more.
This does not mean an online business is not for you, as far I’m concern, online business is for everyone who can and willing to give it what it takes. You only to make sure you’re doing the right thing.