I always have people that ask how to launch a successful online business without failing first. Starting an online business and running it successfully is not about being smart, it’s about common sense and perseverance. Launching a business is hard work and requires a great deal of dedication. But the reason most people end up being unsuccessful has nothing to do with being intelligent enough – it’s because they lose their focus, don’t follow through, or give up too soon.
So how do you make sure you won’t fall flat on your face with your incredible business idea?
Here are some tips to help you launch your online business without failing first.
Stay in your day job for as long as you can.
There’s no way around it, you’re going to need cash flow. The last thing you want to do is to jump ship on your job without having financial security.
You’d be walking into a train wreck:
You’d start feeling desperate
Go into “survival” mode
Make the wrong business decisions
Scramble to look for another job
The good news is, there’s A LOT you can do to start your business while you’re working full time. At a minimum, aim to have these things complete before you sign off on your job:
Market research – make sure you understand your target audience and what they want
A working brand identity – the bare essentials are all you need (logo, business card, website)
An online presence – be active on at least one social channel
Your first 10 blog posts – you want to launch with a handful of posts
A minimum viable product – can be a physical product, digital product, or service offering
Next, save your money.
Try to put aside at least six months of income before you leave your day job. This will help you make objective decisions and give you enough time to navigate earning an income from your business.
Start with the right business idea.
This one’s a biggie.
Your business idea ALONE can literally make or break your success.
Take it from me on this one! I’ve tried everything when it comes to launching businesses and can finally tell the difference between a good business idea and a bad one.
The last thing I want is for you to put in the hard work upfront, only to lose your enthusiasm when the return on investment takes longer than expected and you can’t sustain an income.
Besides, nothing gettings frustrating faster than not making money.
Let’s say you’re married with two kids and a demanding job – one that requires your full-on attention. At night, you like to spend time with your kids before they go to sleep, which gives you two hours to work on your business idea before you clock out. You decide to spend that time learning how to code so you can start your web development business.
Can you see what’s wrong here?
Starting a business is SOOO hard! Don’t make it even harder by learning a new skill set before you even start!
Here’s the thing:
You probably have about 15 hours a week to work on your business. In that time frame, you’re going to need to see REAL progress to stay motivated. Otherwise, overwhelm and defeat will start to creep up on you. Slowly at first. Then bam. Like a ton of bricks.
It’s much easier to start a business based on what you already know. Look at your skills, research the market, and find the place where they intersect. That’s your success path.
Solve a problem
People often make the mistake of searching for a product first and a problem later. To be successful, the key is to identify a problem and then find a way to solve it. A market that’s looking for a solution, and not finding any results, will be your biggest asset.
According to Fortune, the single biggest reason most businesses fail is because they created products nobody wanted. A lack of market need was identified as the biggest reason for failure by 42% of failed startups.
If you’re planning to invest time and money into a business, make sure your product/solution has a market.
Have a plan of action
Although you don’t need a formal 30-page business plan to succeed, you still need to know who your target audience is, what their problems are, what solution you’re offering them, and whether they’d be willing to pay for your service or product.
This means you need a plan of action. If you start without a plan, your actions will not be aligned with your business and you’ll end up wasting time and money. Like they say - “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”
Try to streamline your path when you start out to avoid being all over the place. When you have a focused timeline and a focused action plan, things are sure to run much more smoothly.
Starting a business takes deliberate focus and attention. If you back-burner it, you’ll risk not reaching the finish line.
But when you really, REALLY want something, you don’t back-burner it, right? You make it a priority.
You inherently *get* that you won’t be able to have your cake and eat it too. Not today, anyway. So you start de-prioritizing other things.
Maybe you don’t go to every party. You hang with your friends less. Or, you get your spouse to help with the kids. Can you cut down on the number of hours you work? Heck, maybe you can look for part-time work rather than full-time!
You say No more than Yes.
(I’ve been saying no for a looong time now, *wink.)
But you know what? You’re EXCITED to make the sacrifices today in exchange for your FREEDOM tomorrow.
Develop a routine that you can follow.
Set a minimum number of hours each week that you will work on your business idea. Then use a time blocking calendar to set specific time slots each day. (Don’t forget to look for “hidden hours” you can squeeze in, say, during or after work.)
Now, when it comes to sticking with your routine, I’ve got two strategies for you! These will be especially helpful on days when you feel extra stressed and ANYTHING BUT motivated.
First off, plan your week every Sunday.
When you’re crystal clear on what you will be doing and when – down to the tiniest details – you’ll be more inclined to show up and execute on them.
But when it’s Wednesday and your brain is fried already, THEN you have to figure out what the heck to work on, you know what happens?
You put it off until tomorrow.
You stop seeing consistent progress…
Which makes you less motivated to work on your business idea…
So you put it off again…
Then you’re off to PROCRASTINATING once again!
Don’t go there, friend. Plan ahead and stay on track.
Spend more time doing and less time planning.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-planning and under-executing.
To avoid that, give yourself a time slot for planning (preferably on Sundays). Leave the other time slots for doing. Then hold yourself accountable to show up and get them done.
It can also be tempting to think... Since I won’t get much done in an hour, I’ll wait until the weekend when I have more time.
This is dangerous territory for so many reasons (step above). When you put it off today, the next thing you know you’re blowing off an entire Saturday or Sunday. I mean, if you didn’t make it a priority on Monday, why should it be a priority on Sunday, right?
Wrong. You’ve got to make it a priority every single day.
Even if Monday morning all you do is stare at your laptop for an hour, the fact that you’re sitting there reinforces your commitment to your business. Plus, trust me. You won’t be able to stare at your screen for an hour! You’ll get bored in 15 minutes and start digging in.
Know your profit model
According to SmallBizTrends.com; 30% of small businesses break even, 40% make money and 30% take a loss. In order to succeed at business, you must be clear – down to the last dime - about how much you’re spending, where it’s coming from and how much you’re getting in return. Many people make the mistake of starting a business without paying attention to financial issues such as expenses, taxes, or cash flow.
What’s your net margin on sales?
Your gross margin?
What’s the number of sales you need to make to break even?
You need to lay out a proper profit strategy to get answers to these questions before you launch your business.
Many small business owners think they can do it all themselves. With this kind of thinking, you’re setting yourself up for failure. No one person can be good at every aspect of running a business. You need to determine important functions and delegate duties to suitable people to get the job done. Your skills and strengths should be used for the business’s best advantage but you must learn to assign responsibilities to others who can perform them better.
Moreover, never make the mistake of ignoring tasks you don’t like to do. Starting a successful business requires many critical actions. You don’t want to end up going bankrupt by failing to pay attention to an important function just because you didn’t like it. Find the right people for each job and make sure they’re in the right position.
Build an audience
When you’re starting out, it’s essential to build your brand voice and an audience to market to. This is where most small businesses fail. You create a business plan, a beautiful website and take all the right steps, but sales don’t happen because you didn’t build an audience.
You can use various methods to quickly build a following. Create a presence on social media by testing out one or two social networks where your target audience hangs out. Advertise your product or service with a small budget to a customized audience and monitor the results.
Another great way to get the word out is by guest posting on blogs that are relevant to your niche. This is one of the best ways to build credibility, market to a larger audience, and direct traffic back to your site. You can also be a guest on applicable podcasts to get the message out.
No matter how great your product or service is, it won’t matter if you’re not able to get the message to the right people. If you’re not well-versed with digital marketing techniques, consider hiring an expert to help you with it.
Launching an online business is hard work. Many aspiring entrepreneurs assume the road to success will be easy and streamlined, but that’s not true. Unfortunately, passion alone is not enough to ensure victory. However, if you follow the above mentioned steps, you’ll be on your way to launching an online business with a much higher chance of success.