Running an Online Business: The Stuff They Didn’t Put in the Brochure

I’ve been running an online business for about 2.5 years now – not long enough to identify any serious trends, but long enough to have messed up plenty of things.  Thinking about the 1,000 Blog Challenge, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve found that weren’t in that “make money online” brochure.
 

Overnight Success?

Here’s the deal: blogs are just like any kind of business in that you don’t open the door and have people throwing fists full of bills at you.  Hard work results in that, but it takes time to get the traction and get the attention you need.

The latest buzzword on this topic has been the idea of overnight success.  Many of the world’s millionaires, such as Richard Branson, have noted that at one point in their career they were considered an overnight success.  That’s because you didn’t notice all the stuff they did to get there.

Someone mentioned this to me at a conference I was speaking at this year, and it was all I could do not to roll my eyes. I’d encourage you to read up on three gentlemen who certainly know a thing or two more about overnight success (and the lack thereof):

  • Chris Brogan: What it Takes to be an overnight success http://www.chrisbrogan.com/what-it-takes-to-be-an-overnight-success/
  • Seth Godin: Overnight Success?  http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2006/05/overnight_succe.html
  • Chris Guillebeau: 279 Days to Overnight Success http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/overnight-success/

[Todd here, couldn’t agree more with all these picks. A big thanks to Chris who also shared his ideas on the recent article here 16 Money Making Tips from Some of the World’s Most Popular Bloggers]

Most Important Skill to Running an Online Business?

This is a question I get a lot. What’s the key to success online?  It’s a loaded question, because you can’t succeed with just one skill – you need passion, blood, sweat, and probably a few tears as well.

I think the one skill, though, that everyone needs and that we all could do better is marketing.  You need marketing to know who your target audience is.  You need marketing to know what kind of website design will appeal to your target audience.  You need marketing to know what kinds of problems your target audience has, and how you can fix them.

If marketing is your weak point, go to the library.  Seth Godin is a personal favourite on marketing, as well as Dan Kennedy, but make sure you expand your scope to books that talk about persuasion, advertising, and psychology, not just books about Adwords and Facebook.

Old School Business Rules Apply?

Sometimes, us virtual folks start thinking that old school business rules don’t apply. There are lots of those, but the one I’d like to talk about is CASH.  You know, the stuff you use to pay your bills.

I don’t have the latest statistics handy, but pretty much the number one reason any business fails isn’t knowledge, or talent, or effort.  It is running out of money.No matter how good your stuff is, if you aren’t able to last long enough to get it in front of paying customers and convince enough of them to buy, you’re done.

There is lots of talk in the blogosphere about monetization and how you should monetize and when you should monetize.   Everyone’s situation is different so I’m not going to get into that here, but be sure that you do think about this from the beginning.  If it doesn’t make money, it’s not a business, it’s a hobby.

Get Some Fresh Air Sometimes

Lastly, I’d like to encourage you to shut that laptop lid, put away your smart phone, and go outside.  Get some fresh air.  I say this for two reasons:  one, because when you focus too hard sometimes it is easy to lose your focus on what’s important.  And two, because you need to go out and meet some people in the flesh.  Network with your peers.  Talk to people who would be ideal customers and find out their pains, their wants, their needs.  Life online is great, but the real world these days seems to be underrated.