The 9 Biggest Mistakes I’ve Made In Online Business To Date
I’ve been in online business for about 9 years now after up and quitting my very cushy (but totally not my vibe) corporate market research job at 24. I’ve been through six different online businesses now – and have learned SO MUCH.
At the beginning of the year, I sent out a survey to my list asking what it was they wanted to hear from me, and one of the best responses was that they wanted to know what my biggest mistakes are. I thought this was such a juicy question since you normally see people only sharing their successes online.
I’ll be the very first to tell you that I’ve made thousands of mistakes in my time as an online business owner, and continue to make them every day. But honestly the mistakes have gifted me so many lessons along the way as well. That’s why I want to pass along my big mistakes with you. Maybe if I share them with you, you’ll be less likely to make them! I can rub off some of my learnings so you can skip these tough lessons entirely… what I wouldn’t have given for that on my own journey!
Here are the nine biggest mistakes I’ve made in online business to date:
1.Trying to learn everything by myself.
I wanted to learn literally everything I could the hard way. In hindsight, I think I was just being stubborn and wanting to carve out my own journey to have a success story to share. But the truth is that I shot myself in the foot by trying to teach myself everything from WordPress and HTML to creating products to email marketing to how to make money.
I could have saved myself SO MUCH energy and effort by picking up some books, investing in some online courses, and upleveling my tools to make myself more efficient.
To date, the best investments I’ve made in my business and self are: Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp, ConvertKit for email marketing, Tailwind for Pinterest scheduling, and Pintastic Profit Plan to learn how to use Pinterest effectively for marketing my business.
I’ve learned that every time I invest in my business, the money comes back to me.
2. Attempting to make one version of a product and never wanting to revise it down the road.
This was such a newbie mistake, but took me all of about 4 years to learn. I’d create a digital product (like an ebook or ecourse) and if it didn’t fly off the shelves within a few months, I shuttered it. Instead of asking for feedback from my audience about why they didn’t buy it or asking existing customers what could have made it better, I simply just cut my losses and moved on to the next big idea.
I’ve learned that iteration is so much easier than starting from scratch. If you’re onto something with a product or service, aim to improve it instead of scrapping it entirely. Chances are you’re close to making it fly off the shelves – and just a tweak or two in the offer or in the marketing would make it soar.
3. Not paying for the tools I needed to make myself more productive.
This is a fairly new lesson as well – as in the past year or so. It wasn’t until I had my son and came back to my online businesses did I realize that I really couldn’t “afford” (time and money-wise) to spend my only work time doing some of the menial tasks like scheduling social media posts or weekly emails.
Sure, I still do those things, but now I pay for tools (like ConvertKit and Tailwind) to help me get them done in a more efficient manner. I can bulk schedule posts or emails instead of sitting down multiple times a day or week to do them, and eat into my work time that I could be using for far more important tasks.
4. Creating products and services without knowing if there was a real need or desire for what I wanted to make.
I didn’t always put my audience’s needs before my own desire to make something cool. Instead of talking to my audience about what they wanted to learn from me, I’d just come up with ideas of what I wanted to share. Those didn’t always align so I’d spend weeks and months creating products that people never wanted to buy. Things like an ebook on how to cook for beginners or a two-week video course on creating healthy habits. Neither of these things sound like especially BAD ideas, but they just weren’t aligned with my audience at the time.
The lesson I want to pass on to you is: ask your audience what they want before you invest your time and resources into creating it.
5. Being extremely impatient about making my business successful.
Some people start like fireworks in their business – they explode and people are clamoring to hear from them and throw their money at them. These overnight successful people make money right and left and never once “struggle” to figure any part of the process out. That’s absolutely not the norm (and usually not the entire story either).
I’ve been in online business for 6 years now and I’m just now feeling like I’m getting my head wrapped around some of the big lessons of do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. I have spent years floating along throwing darts and hoping eventually something would stick… and lucky enough for me, it has!
But it isn’t always easy to be patient. You have to put in a LOT of hard work before it really pays off most of the time. My biggest lesson here is that even if someone doesn’t buy your stuff on the first day, week, or even first few months, don’t get discouraged. Keep going, keep creating, keep sharing. The more you learn, the more you’ll be able to discern what works and what doesn’t in your business – so again…
You can do more of what works and less of that doesn’t.
6. I tried to be too different in some of my business ventures.
It’s awesome to be different, weird, quirky. These are often some of the best people to be around and to hang out with. But in online business, there’s absolutely something to be said for people who follow trends.
Of course you want your business to be somewhat different than what’s out there, but if what you’re putting out to the world is too obscure, you might not have enough of an audience to make a decent income from it. So while you might think “there’s a million other people doing this exact thing” – the truth is that’s actually a good thing! That means there’s a piece of that giant pie for you too.
7. I pushed too hard, burned myself out, and didn’t take breaks when I was going through a major life change.
Unfortunately, one of the online businesses I started a few years back was just getting off the ground (we’re talking weeks) and making great money(!), when my dad passed away unexpectedly. Instead of taking the time I needed to cope, I powered through and threw myself further into working and trying to gain clients (this was when I was doing more one-on-one work). This business was one I was working with my husband on his free time, and I folded it in just under 4 months.
Instead of taking a step back to deal with my emotions and grief, I just quit. We closed the business and I moved on to the next thing. Take care of yourself first!! YOU get to decide the fate of your business, so if you need a break, take one. Don’t burn out for the sake of being persistent, it’s not worth it over the long run.
8. When I had my son and was ready to start working again, I didn’t carve out time just for working and it was brutal to try to fit in what I wanted to.
Even though I thought I had prepared ahead of time, it was a completely different ballgame than I expected trying to run a business and raise a baby who always wanted to be held. I never really got down that whole multitasking thing that so many moms do when he was so small. I know that motherhood comes more naturally to some people, and many women can do it with grace and ease… and just seem to be able to do everything all with an infant on their lap. I wasn’t that person. So when it came time to work, I had to set really clear boundaries with my husband around my working hours, so that I could get things accomplished.
I still struggle with this now honestly and I have to remember that sometimes I do have to turn down family events or social get togethers to put my focus on my business. I hope that someday when my son is off to preschool and I have more time to work while he’s being occupied that I won’t have to do that, but for now, my work time happens in the evenings when my husband can take over kid-watching duties.
9. I didn’t niche down enough.
When I was first starting my health coaching business way back when, I was planning to just be a health coach to anyone. I had no idea what I was doing when it came to marketing, so I figured if I honed in my audience that I’d be cutting off my opportunities to make money and get clients.
Boy, was I wrong. I realized that without narrowing down who I was talking to and sharing my health and wellness tips with, that I was offering a lot of vague concepts and no one was really benefitting. I didn’t know what to share and my audience was a hodge podge of older women, a handful of men, and a couple younger women who worked in the corporate world. If I had focused in on ONE of those groups, I could have gotten in front of more of them more easily. I would have gained the attention of those “right” people and gotten a lot more clients without so much effort. Bottom line: Focus in your marketing for easier and better results.
That’s 9 of my biggest lessons that I’ve made in online business and sharing and selling what I know. I’m sure there are a lot more I can add, and I’m constantly growing and learning in my experience as an entrepreneur, but I’ll cut the list here for now.
I hope that if you’re just getting started online selling your knowledge to those who need it that this list is useful for you. Sometimes it’s better to rely on those who have gone before us to help us avoid the easiest pitfalls in whatever we’re doing. If this list of mistakes helps you get clarity on a way you can shift things in your business, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And if you have some mistakes to share, be sure to share those as well.