“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky, co-founder of Behance.
Scott’s right; the online entrepreneur world is full of hot air. Podcasts, Facebook groups, YouTube channels, blogs — all of them peddling the online entrepreneur dream. Don’t get me wrong — earning a decent wage and supporting a family through online work is totally possible, but watching one webinar isn’t necessarily going to change your life. Becoming a successful online entrepreneur takes hard work, a good sales pipeline, and a commitment to developing the right habits. Here are some common expectations vs. reality that people struggle with at first.
“ I can do it all myself” vs. “I am going to have to outsource this”
The bootstrapping entrepreneur may feel the need to do ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING by themselves. Which seems like a good idea for all of five minutes, until you realize that you need to spend more time on the things you’re actually good at.
Outsourcing can touch all parts of your business — from HR and finances to content production and social media. Start to build a picture of what you are good at, and what you’re not so good at, to determine where strategic outsourcing might be needed.
You need to develop strong relationships with your suppliers. You aren’t going to be their biggest client, so you have to develop strong social bonds instead. Explain to people that you want them to be part of your success and they will be much more likely to help you out.
Outsourcing isn’t about diluting your brand or cheapening it — quite the opposite: it’s about finding time to do more things that matter.
Consider whether a remote team in another part of the world can help you cost-effectively grow your operations, without you having to hire staff and rent traditional office space. The beauty of internet work is that you have access to a global market and workforce, so take advantage of that.
Plenty of interested leads vs. plenty of time-wasters
When you first start your business, a lot of people will show interest and want to talk to you about what you’re doing. But that initial curiosity will wear off, and interest doesn’t always translate into actual sales. It’s easy to get frustrated and to see people as time-wasters, so take control of your own sales strategy — you will find it gets a lot easier.
Sales are crucial for an online entrepreneur — especially when you’re too busy to do it! It’s easy to get wrapped up in ongoing projects, and then suddenly have nothing to do when the work dries up. Sales have to be a constant preoccupation. Having a proper sales pipeline managed by a CRM is a good idea to help you organize your sales. Take the hassle and emotions out of following up with templates and automated reminders.
As well as sales, you need to focus on building a community around you with networking — socializing is important for entrepreneurs as a way to share information. Co-marketing and joint ventures are important for online entrepreneurs as a source of regular income.
Related: Classification of Sales Leads: Hot, Warm or Cold
Automation seems wrong vs. automation is my lifeline
When you first start, your passion may get the better of your practicality. It can be hard to trust software to take care of your business, but online business is 24/7…and you do need some time off.
Smart entrepreneurs embrace automation as a way to take care of repetitive tasks. Using smart data and technology like AI, it’s becoming more and more feasible to automate customer interactions and business processes. Don’t be afraid of automation, but just make sure you build in robust systems so that you can keep yourself accountable to your clients and customers.
I can retire at 35 vs. I’ll always want to work
Becoming an entrepreneur is a lifestyle choice. You might have dreams of making a lot of money, selling your business on and retiring, but once you get going it’s hard to stop. The digital world is constantly changing, and once ideas and projects gather momentum, you will find yourself getting pulled into all directions.
Rather than retiring, you will probably find yourself working even harder and longer. Don’t underestimate the weight of responsibility of making your own decisions and taking charge of your life — it’s an intense experience.
What you need to do is focus on the longevity of your ventures, rather than any ‘get rich quick schemes’, and create a balance with plenty of time away from your desk and time for pet passion projects.
I need a great idea vs. it’s all about execution
The best business isn’t always the one who came up with the idea, but the business who executes it the best.
Many dreamers think that running a successful business is all about having a great ‘idea’, and they will spend years tinkering in their labs like mad scientists. The truth? Yes, ideas are great, but many of them aren’t that original. You’re much better off focusing on the execution of your ideas.
Frameworks, processes, systems — these are all dry words, but they are what it takes to be truly successful in business.
I’ll spend time perfecting it all vs. let’s get an MVP out
Don’t make the rookie mistake of sitting on your project, website, blog, product, or idea for months: get out there in beta mode and start testing! Customer feedback and live reactions are invaluable: this is the sort of information that money can’t buy.
A great strategy I’ve heard work in the past for a product-based online business is opening up an inexpensive online store, and driving paid traffic to the site to see how people react (monitoring bounce rates, dwell time, average order value). The business in question treated these early customers like super VIPs with surveys and phone calls, strategically using this time for fact-finding — and it helped them tweak their offering so that they made a killing on launch day. Reddit is a great place to test out content ideas, whereas software can be tested by elite online communities. Product and idea testing isn’t always for the faint hearted, but it will help set you up for good.
If you’re not quite sure what your viable MVP would look like — check out this checklist. It’s a proven strategy that works.
Total freedom vs. huge demands on my time
When you were sat in a cubicle punching numbers, the entrepreneur lifestyle of having Wednesday mornings off and working in your PJs probably sounded like a holiday. But don’t be deceived: you will be working a whole lot more, not a whole let less. You can definitely choose your hours — but you will probably end up working during all the hours available because of the demands placed on you.
That’s why scaling, outsourcing, and automation are such clever strategies. Once you nail those, you will have the freedom to breathe a little freer and design your own life. Entrepreneurs get a lot of strength from role models, mentors, and each other, so seek out like-minded individuals in your network.
Online entrepreneurship is opening up doors for people from different backgrounds and countries to make a name for themselves. In the Democratic digital world, we are all capable of success. Start your journey today and start living your entrepreneur dream. What’s your biggest fear about entrepreneurship?
Gareth Simpson – Technical SEO & Startup Founderis an SEO pro with over a decade in the industry. Now based in Bristol, UK, his specialisms are blogger outreach and content. You’ll find him at his desk, drinking green tea and working on his latest campaign.