Online business sounds like winning the lottery.
All your dreams come true. A Mercedes appears in your driveway. You never have to leave home or commute again. You can work on the beach with a laptop if you like. Am I right?
No. I’ve done this online business thing for 9 years.
It’s not what you think it’s going to be. That’s both good and bad so let me explain so you don’t fail at it.
The email that gave me the shock of my life
Three years ago I had a client from Toronto.
They wanted help to migrate from their job to a business idea they had. I was helping them with their social media. It was a husband and wife setup.
Now they’re divorced (story for another day).
At 9:30 AM on a summer’s morning I got an email out of nowhere. The customer was pissed at me. In our last catch up I said that I could feel the fear in their voice and it was holding them back.
They slept on it … and got mad.
I felt bad. I felt shocked. Then I thought to myself … “Hold up, wait a second. Online business is brutal. If you can’t handle being told your fearful, you’ve got no chance at ever making this work.”
Online business isn’t for boy scouts that follow the rules and deliver neat little cupcakes to the homes of their mysterious customers. This stuff is hard. If you think I’m tough as a coach or a writer sharing business lessons with you on here, wait until you meet the real internet users.
Trolls. Haters. Angry. Customers. Even grannies with too much time on their hands who want to return a tv to you that they broke on purpose and try to claim manufacturer’s warranty on.
Internet businesses aren’t for fragile people.
How to toughen up and prepare for online business
This quote is perhaps the best wisdom I’ve ever read for anyone who wants to start an online business:
Online businesses don’t fail.
The people who start them run out of energy or have the wrong mindset. Or they can’t deal with pressure, criticism, or hard work. That’s the truth no internet guru will tell ya.
You either have what it takes already or you’re willing to change your ways and grow into the person who can handle it. Sink or swim. There is no messy middle.
1. Mess about and figure it out
The problem with MBAs is they fool people into thinking there’s a process.
One thing I’ve learned about online business is there’s no formula. You stuff around and see what happens. You run experiments. You do things. You meet people. You feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.
If you can sit with these challenges for long enough, you’ll find your path online. What makes it tricky is the internet changes so fast.
What works today is dead tomorrow.
Universities could never keep up. They weren’t designed to. That’s why you don’t need ’em. Self-education is how you grow online.
2. Reach out to people you don’t know even if it feels scary
The hard part about online business is it’s not a solo pursuit.
Online businesses need distribution to get their social media content seen. Unless you have one-million bucks to hand over to Suckerburger for ads, you’re going to need other people.
Those people will help grow your business while they grow theirs. You’ll trade content shares with them. You’ll trade Stripe dashboard screenshots. You’ll share what works and doesn’t.
If you’re trying to do this alone it’s become frustrating and you’ll quit. Loneliness is the main cause of online business failure.
3. Spend more than $0 to cover your knowledge gaps
Learning for free takes a lifetime.
That’s why you have to invest in yourself and your online business to make it grow. It’s faster to pay people for coaching or consulting or to join a mastermind than it is to slog away alone having no clue what you’re doing.
Yes, it requires a little money (not much), but the time saved is worth a fortune later on.
I’m about to drop $10,000 on a consultant to teach me what I don’t know about email funnels. Sure, I could have watched free Youtube videos, but most of the advice is trash or outdated.
If the advice was good these Youtube teachers would charge for it. Makes sense. Get around practitioners.
The cool thing is when you pay for help, often, that person stays in your life. You can even become friends — but that’s not obvious at the start.
Stop sending emails asking for free advice.
4. Moving through different levels of income is the hardest
Going from $0 to $20 is pretty easy.
But going from $1000-$10,000 a month is much harder. And going from 6-figures to 7 or even 8 figures a year is harder again.
Every stage of the revenue ladder requires a different kind of thinking. What made you the first $20 won’t make you 7-figures.
Each step is a change in mindset. Each level requires you to disrupt who you are. At 6-figures I was paranoid about email unsubscribes. At 7 figures I’ve learned to get over it.
To get to 8 figures I’ll need rethink email marketing and move into the free email course world. That’s where real money is made.
But you don’t know this at the start. As you progress up the ladder it requires you to upgrade your inner circle. If I still primarily hung around 5-figure writers on this platform there’s no way I’d be on the path to 8 figures.
It sounds harsh but it’s true. Told you this game is brutal.
You have to be willing to lose a few internet friends along the way, because if you don’t, your online business won’t grow.
Life is hard. Believing it should be easy makes it harder
5. A source of hidden online business confidence
I’d have Shane Parrish’s babies if he’d let me.
He says, “When confidence comes from results, you gravitate toward doing easy things. When confidence comes from the ability to figure it out, nothing can stop you.”
It’s easy to get caught up in results. To check writing stats or see how much money you made today or check how many new email subscribers you got. This addiction to results holds you back.
Over the years I’ve become less of a stat-checker. Online business has given me the confidence to know that I’ll figure out any online game.
Get good at figuring stuff out, not analyzing stats like a fortune-teller. The next lot of money lies in new products and services, not more followers.
“More” is a distraction.
Hard doesn’t mean impossible. It’s achievable.
Online business may rip your face off but don’t let that deter you.
Dumb-dumbs like me can figure it out. This whole game is achievable … it just takes more time, patience, and intensity than most people think.
One published newsletter a month isn’t going to do anything.
You want to play hard games online because most people aren’t playing them. As you climb up the revenue ladder, in some ways, it gets easier because there are fewer people to compete with.
But that means it’s also harder to find those at a similar level who can support you and offer real advice and content distribution.
What all this means for you
Sure, online business is hard but here’s why it’s such a great decision…
You work hard for a couple of years to live the good life for 40+ years.
It’s a business you own 100%. It can’t be taken away unless you break the law and go to prison lol. It’s a foundation that can pivot and transform into any idea your mind can imagine.
My email list began when I talked about success. Now I talk about completely different topics — and most subscribers are still with me.
Online business is something you do for life. It gets started part-time and becomes full-time if you follow the above formula.
Let difficulty inspire you.