Online business is sexy as hell.
Everyone and their mom wants to build one. I’ve built a 7-figure online business despite not being a genius. So I must have learned something about doing it — especially considering I’m not a trust fund dude.
There’s a lot I didn’t know at the start that I know now. These tips can probably save you one, or even several years, if you use them.
1. You’ll be scared out of your mind
Online business has a story problem.
People represent a fake version of the entrepreneur dream — in places like TikTok — because they’re seeking attention.
But attention-seeking wannabe gurus rarely help you make money.
The truth is an online business has its moments. Many of them will scare the pants off your ass. I spend a lot of time putting out fires — angry people, fake lawsuits, extortion, and sudden bills.
Any one of these issues can turn into a disaster that kills your online business. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Quite the opposite.
Just don’t think it’ll be a gentle walk through a rainforest.
Online business is hard, which is why it feels so good later on if you succeed.
2. The first year is brutal
Some run part-time online businesses. Others run full-time ones.
I’ve transitioned from part-time to full-time. What nobody tells you is it’s bloody hard. That first year when you’re solo and live off a business is hard work.
As my man JK said to me:
I quit working 8 hours a day for someone else so I could work 16 hours a day for myself.
It’s not forever, but that first year is tough while you set things up.
3. You’re a recruiter more than a salesperson
Online business gurus love to preach about the power of sales skills.
They are important, although what matters more is you understand you’re a recruiter. Even if you stay as a one-person business, you’ll need others to support you.
You’ll have to recruit a lawyer, web developer, accountant, virtual assistant, customers (who give testimonials), maybe a business partner, etc.
It’s not as easy as it looks. People won’t join or be a supplier to your online business unless they believe in what you do. If they think you’ll fail, they’ll simply ghost you when it comes time for them to execute a task.
Attract people to your business by being clear on why you do what you do.
4. “The scale of the internet is incredible”
George Mack said this after watching an American lady make a million dollars in 8 minutes.
At the start it feels impossible to make money on the internet. Like it shouldn’t be so simple. Yet it is. All it takes is an obsession for something and to be consistent for 12+ months.
5. The #1 issue I faced (millions fail because of it)
Let’s get super practical. I dreamed of running an online business for years while working my boring-ass bank job.
It didn’t happen though until I realized millions of people try to start online businesses & fail because they don’t offer something people actually want.
No matter how hard you try, you’ll always be pushing sh*t uphill unless you take the time to figure out what they want.
There are two paths:
- Solve a problem for them
- Help them achieve a goal
Both of those options will be tied to one of these wants:
- “I want more time”
- “I want more money”
- “I want to improve my health”
- “I want to experience less pain/discomfort”
- “I want to experience more pleasure/comfort”
6. Ask prospects, not experts
Too many wannabes waste time sending emails to people like me asking for advice or help or how to get started.
As I said, what matters is you know your target audience’s wants. The best way isn’t to ask a guru. No. It’s to jump on calls with people inside a community who’d be interested in what you have to sell.
If you publish written content like I do, then you’d ask your readers. I’ve learned not to be fancy about it either.
Once a month I send one google form survey to my email list, and one to my existing customers. Their voices determine my next business moves.
And I never build a new product without getting loads of survey data first. Because when I didn’t do this I kept selling crap people didn’t want.
7. Online business is a small country
The reason building an online business is so addictive is you can rewrite the laws of society for your little patch of the internet.
For example, my online business has a zero meeting policy. Second, we always assume the customer is right. Three, we don’t create ads or use annoying countdown clocks.
It’s like you’re the president of a small country and your customers voted you into that position. Now it’s your job to lead them based on how you want them to live each day.
8. Adopt this powerful belief
If you try to plan you’ll never start.
The belief you must adopt is you’ll figure it out as you go.
The longer I’ve run an online business the more I’ve learned. The failures have actually taught me the most. But if I’d only read those lessons in a book, I wouldn’t have believed them, so they still would have hurt me.
F*ck around and find out
is good advice — Jack Butcher
9. You MUST have figured out something valuable
This one is counter-intuitive.
The amount of money you make online is determined by the value you can give people. Too many wannabes try to make money online when they don’t know anything valuable.
I see it with online courses all the time.
Anyone can sell a course, but for it to have value you must have either practiced a skill for several years, or stumbled across solutions to problems that can’t easily be googled.
Otherwise all you’re selling is a “how-to guide for LinkedIn” that is no better than the FAQs page on their website.
All businesses are some form of information or access arbitrage.
10. Stop trying to be an Eddie Expert
This one ties in perfectly with the last point.
Knowing something valuable doesn’t mean being an expert.
No. The best customers are two steps behind where you are right now. That way you can help them with your product or service, and not need a degree or ten years of career experience to do it.
Expert status is overrated.
11. Outsourcing feels like a slow death
If all you do is build an online business and never outsource anything, what you have created is a glorified job.
The point of an online business is to reclaim your life. It’s to own your time again and have some level of passive income.
To achieve this goal you need:
- Software automation
- Virtual assistants
It sounds simple but this is perhaps the hardest part of an online business.
To outsource you need basic systems and to have every component of the business documented in google docs with simple video tutorials of you recording your screen doing the thing (use Loom).
Then you have to go through the difficult task of finding a virtual assistant, and a person who can set up automation (Zapier) for you.
This is what it feels like:
“Here ya go, pal. There are the keys to my entire world. Now don’t steal, okay?”
You have to trust another person and hand over access to your online accounts (Lastpass is the safest way). You have to spend money on outsourcing without knowing if those you choose can do what they say.
At the start it feels like a slow death.
Once you’re halfway in, it starts to feel like freedom.
12. Not all money is equal
Every US dollar isn’t the same.
- Category 1: Some money you make online is high margin, or subscription-based, or recession-proof. Or all three!
- Category 2: Other money you make online is low margin, transactional, full of one-time purchases, and seasonal.
Category one revenue is sweeter. It gets you closer to financial freedom faster, so all your focus should go into making this kind of money.
13. People don’t buy products, they buy feelings
I see people all the time become obsessed with features, branding, and fancy websites.
What matters more is how your product/service makes people feel. The best feeling you can give people is inspiration. Make them feel inspired, and they’ll do anything to do business with you.
Feelings > Features