6 Things to Know About Building an Online Business
Thinking of breaking out of the 9 to 5? You’re not alone. As a leadership coach, I’ve worked with many clients who dream of freedom, autonomy, and the thrill of growing an online business from scratch.
I applaud this thinking. The world needs more entrepreneurs, more creativity, and more people who are in charge of their own destinies rather being beholden to an indifferent employer. Self-employment can be deeply satisfying. There’s something particularly enticing about building something that you love and believe in.
It’s hard. Really, really hard.
I speak from experience. I have recently re-launched The Expansive Woman Project as a community where women support each other’s career growth, as well as marketplace of women-focused leadership and executive presence training courses.
After a six-month planning phase, I officially launched my new website on September 1st. It’s still early days, but I’ve learned a few things I can share with you.
Here's what you need to know about building an online business:
1. Your primary job will be marketing
It’s not just that marketing is a part of your job. It’s most of your job. Like, 80% or more of your job. And I’m not talking about old fashioned brand marketing.
I’m talking about developing an obsession with funnels, data, and testing.
Modern marketing is exceptionally complex. It requires deep customer knowledge, constant iteration, and a willingness to fail, recover, learn and try again.
In the past few months, I’ve learned not only how to set up and run Meta and Google Ads, but I also dove into the world of Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics goals, SEM and SEO.
I look at my metrics hourly, assessing and changing, increasing a budget here, decreasing one there. I’m always tweaking copy, changing images and shifting landing page elements around.
It is a constant practice.
2. You will also be a writer/creative director/video producer, editor and presenter
Someone has to write all that copy, create all those ads, and build those landing pages. And guess what? It’s you!
Each month I write five blog posts and send out five (sometimes more) email newsletters. I create ten or more display ads, a dozen or so social media posts, and tweak my Google Ad Words copy.
I also create and edit several videos for ads, YouTube, course content and landing page content. I have a very fancy desktop microphone with shield as well as a clip-on microphone. I also have a light ring camera tripod and an unlighted one. These are things I never thought I’d need, much less own.
I use Canva for static ad and image creations, Promo for video ads, Quicktime and iMovie for instructional videos, SoundStripe for background music, SubtitleBee for video subtitles and Speakflow as a teleprompter for scripted videos.
Content creation could easily be my full-time job.
3. Your tech stack will be everything
Finding the right platform for your business is key. All the different elements must work together seamlessly. The wrong platform will waste a lot of time and money.
Case in point - I wasted a good month this summer trying to make WordPress work for me. As a non-coder, it was impossible, even with so-called “easy” plugins such as LearnDash and BuddyBoss.
And whatever you do, and how tempted you are, don’t hire someone else to build it for you. You have to do it yourself so you can experiment and change things on the fly. This is absolutely essential to your business's growth.
I use Wix for my main website and Kajabi for my courses. Neither is perfect, but I can hack them enough to make them work for me as well as my Expansive Woman Project members and online students.
I use MailChimp for emails, HootSuite for social posting, Zoom for live workshops and courses, and EventBrite for event registrations as well as various form tools, site pop-ups and other tools. I’m looking at Zapier to pull it all together.
I’m oddly proud of my tech stack.
4. You will sometimes feel very alone
I make dozens of business decisions every day with no one to bounce them off of. It can be very lonely work.
That’s why I created an advisory board of wonderful and generous women. I often check in with them for thoughts and advice, and just knowing they are cheering for me and volunteering their time holds me accountable.
It helps to feel supported.
5. You will have to learn to manage your energy
In addition to growing the Expansive Woman Project, I run a full-time leadership coaching and training business through the Center for Expansive Leadership.
As you may have picked up by now, my to-do list is endless. There isn’t enough time in the day or the week for me to do everything I think I should do. I work most Sundays and quite a few Saturdays.
I don’t work out enough, or meditate enough, but I am eating well, so I guess that’s a good thing.
Still, when I get run down, the first place it becomes apparent is on my face. As in, I break out in acne. When I was setting up my Meta account and first ad campaigns, I found it so frustrating and stressful that three massive pimples appeared on my chin. I called them the Zuckerberg trio.
I’m still working on this one.
6. It will take longer than you want it to
For me, this is the toughest part of launching a new business. I tend to have very high expectations of both me and my company. And even though I have doubled The Expansive Woman Project’s membership in the past two months, I want more. And I want it to happen faster.
There’s a popular saying in coaching: We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can do in five years.
I keep trying to remember that.
Should you launch an online business? Well that's up to you. But I can say that I don't regret a minute of my experience with the Expansive Woman Project. It's definitely hard. But it's also fun. And fascinating. And ultimately, I think this work is good for the world.
So, if you think you could say the same things about your business, perhaps you should give it a go.
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