8 Lessons Learned From Running an Official Online Business for One Year

Filed in Case Studies, Progress Reports, Success Stories by on October 24, 2016

At the time of writing, I’ve been running my business online for almost 13 months.

My LLC paperwork was filed in the state of North Carolina on September 21, 2015, and it’s been one hell of a ride since then.

Good things have happened, bad things have happened.

And I’ve learned a lot… more than I think I’d have learned if I’d gotten an actual degree in business instead of journalism.

Starting an online business is very much a learn-by-doing endeavor.

And as much as you read an prepare beforehand, nothing prepares you to be successful like the actual experience of it.

Like learning how to successfully sell affiliate products... you can read as many blog posts and advice books as you want to.

But you'll never truly know how to work with and sell to your particular niche audience until you actually do it.

So today I'll share with you the eight biggest (and hardest) lessons I've learned, so that while you're learning by doing, you can make fewer time-sucking mistakes.

 

 

What You’ll Learn

  • Why your title within your business is so important. (Even if it's not a "business" yet.)
  • Why you've got to bite the bullet and invest in some courses.
  • How much expertise you need to start and be successful.
  • Which metrics actually matter in your first year of business.

 

(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 1,781 profitable niches click here or the image below)

1781 niches [new]

 

1. When Your Business Defines Your Career, It Grows a Lot Faster

After I processed my LLC paperwork, I took my business a lot more seriously.

I still did the same work, but in addition to writing for my clients, I was also a small business owner, which was a hefty title that felt really good to have.

And because I’d forked over nearly $1,000 just to have all the legal paperwork done, I’d placed $1,000 worth of importance on the future of not just me, but of my company.

It’s totally a mental thing—and very much along the lines of the placebo effect—but it works.

When you take the action to make your business official, you stop seeing yourself as a hustler and see yourself as more of a professional.

Moreover, when you label yourself with a title that reflects your business and what you do with it—not just what your “day job” is—you feel more compelled to focus on your business and make sure it works.

I added “Founder of Copy Power, LLC” to my title and suddenly felt really official... like I really had to buckle down to make things happen.

 

2. Your Income Level Depends On You, Not Other People

I know it’s cheesy and gets repeated a million times a day, but as an entrepreneur, your income is truly unlimited.

That is, until the point that you limit it yourself. (More on that later.)

I think a lot of times, especially when our income depends on other people buying things, we like to put the responsibility of our income on them and not us.

When they don’t click on our affiliate links, we don’t earn commissions. If they don’t buy our ebook, we don’t earn any money. If they don’t click on our AdSense ads, it’s no passive income for us.

But the reality is, it’s our job to prompt people to click on the links and buy the products we put in front of them.

If someone doesn’t click on something, there’s a reason for it. And most of the time, that reason is simply that their interest wasn’t piqued.

If we don’t do our job to make people curious about how what we sell can genuinely improve their lives, they’re not going to click and we’re not going to make money… simple as that.

 

3. Investments In Coaches & Courses Are a Must

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: investing money in courses and a business coaching program has been the best money I’ve spent on my business.

Even better than hosting and website plugins, if you ask me.

None of us are born with business genius.

So when we reach different levels of business and need to up-level, it’s better to pay someone who’s been there and done it to teach us how rather than figuring it out by trial and error on our own.

And possibly causing business failure.

Plus, you get to your desired endpoint much quicker.

In the last two years alone, I’ve taken courses to learn how to:

  • Manage consulting clients
  • Do smart networking
  • Get booked solid
  • Raise my rates as a service provider

And every single one of them has paid off at least 10x their cost.

(Hint: If you're looking for a good course to invest in on affiliate marketing, try Stuart's 101 Digital Affiliate Hacks.)

 

4. You’ll Never Figure Out Pricing

Before I started my business, I worked as a freelance writer either part-time or full-time for years.

And I never knew what I should be pricing.

Sometimes I felt like I was asking too much, and other times I felt like I was asking too little.

And you know what? I still feel that way today.

And after listening to plenty of entrepreneurial podcasts, I know I’m not the only one with that experience… far from it.

In fact, most people aren’t 100% confident that their pricing is absolutely what it needs to be.

The best you can do is put a price on your products and services that seems fair, makes you a good bit of money, and maybe raise it every now and then.

As a niche marketer—whether you're selling your own info products or working as an affiliate for someone else's—this means that when people complain about your pricing, you should worry about it too much.

There's always going to be people who want everything for free and people who see an affordable price and will assume the "you get what you pay for" mentality.

The best approach, especially if you're in charge of setting prices, is to just pick a price that feels good and go with it. As long as enough people are buying, don't worry too much about the haters.

 

5. You Don’t Have To Be THE Expert To Start

When I started my business, which was clearly focused around copywriting, there were a lot of people out there who were a lot better at copywriting than I was.

And I’ll tell you a secret: there are still people out there who are better than me.

But you know what?

It doesn’t matter.

There are so many businesses in existence that need good, premium copywriting that there are plenty of clients out there for all of us.

So don’t worry if your not an expert in the niche you're starting a business in.

All that’s required is to be a little bit ahead of the curve your target audience is on. That’s it.

In fact, according to Tim Ferriss, all you really need to do is pick three top-selling books in your niche and read them.

After that, you'll know a lot more than at least 80% of the people in your target market, which is enough for them to consider you an expert.

So if you’ve gotten that far, you can go ahead and start and learn more as you go.

 

(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 1,781 profitable niches click here or the image below)

1781 niches [new]

 

6. Vanity Metrics Don’t Matter, Revenue Does

Twitter followers, Facebook shares, and Pinterest hearts are great because they mean people like the content you’re writing and sharing.

But I think most of us didn’t get into our niches just so lots of people online would think we're cool.

That’s nice, of course, but I think most of us would prefer the money that would let us retire early or quit our jobs instead of internet popularity.

When you pay attention to your revenue—not your vanity metrics—you get really clear really quickly on the things your target audience members care enough about to actually pay for.

Which lets you know whether or not you’re on the right track for your online revenue goals.

So for any sort of campaign you try—ads, social media, or guest blogging—pay attention to how it ultimately affects your bottom line.

This way, you'll spend time doing things that actually grow your business, which is crucial in the first year.

 

7. SEO Is Easier Than You Think

For me, and I think for most of us, SEO is a total mind crunch.

There’s keyword research to do, stats to compare, competition to worry about, backlinks to work for, guest posts to write just for the sake of it, and so on.

If you wanted to, you could spend all day working on your SEO and nothing else.

And a year later, it still wouldn’t be perfect. There’d still be something to optimize for better results.

So instead of killing myself over getting things “just right,” I focus on creating things that are good enough.

A colleague told me about Answer the Public, and I’ve used it to find actual long-tail search terms my target audience uses.

Half of the blog content I create is around these keywords, and I also publish that content on YouTube, boosting my chances of being discovered.

I make sure my posts are “up to scratch” by installing the Yoast SEO plugin on my site, and doing what I need to make sure I’m in green light territory for my chosen keyword.

When I have the opportunity, I place a hyperlink back to my site with those keywords, and that’s it.

Really, that’s all.

Sure, there’s lots more I could be doing, but I’m pretty happy with the results as-is.

 

8. Money Blocks Are Real, Not Just Woo-Woo

Money blocks are a real thing, not just something woo-woo new age life coaches talk about. You have to address them before you can really grow a business.

For example, before I started earning a lot with my business, I realized that I had a money block that told me money was hard to earn, and that if I didn’t work hard for my money, I didn’t deserve it.

In short, if money wasn’t a struggle to get, it wasn’t money that I deserved to have.

It sounds bogus on the outside, but I think a lot of people have that block.

And as niche marketers, money blocks can be disastrous.

For example, if we all thought money had to be hard to earn before we deserved it, we'd never truly get to passive income.

We'd have these self-fulfilling prophecies that say we don't deserve money we don't work for, so we'll never let ourselves relax and just collect passive income.

The worst part is, most of our money blocks are ingrained in us by society without us even realizing it.

How many times have you heard the phrase “Money doesn’t grow on trees”?

It’s things like that that tell us we don’t deserve money unless we’ve struggled for it.

But once I recognized that and realized that my expertise in and of itself was incredibly valuable, I could let go of the need to struggle for more cash.

And permit myself to do work that wouldn’t be a bottleneck and would just let money come in more easily to me.

 

(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 1,781 profitable niches click here or the image below)

1781 niches [new]

 

Conclusion: What Are Your Biggest Insights from Running an Online Business?

For those of you who've run a successful online business for a while, what are your biggest insights for getting started and maintaining success?

(Let me know in the comments, I'd love to know.)

Psst...

If you're still working on getting started, you're definitely in the right place.

Besides my experience running Copy Power, we've got other team members who write about and share their experiences too.

Nader runs a fitness site called FitFrek, and James runs Gentify, a men's lifestyle site. (Not to mention Stuart, who runs NicheHacks.) 

Chelsea Baldwin
Chelsea has a background in journalism and IT, and besides writing for NicheHacks, she's the founder of Copy Power, a business and a website that helps business owners figure out how to get remembered online via copywriting.

She excels in the topic of SEO but can write on a wide range of topics of which you can discover by clicking on her name.

Comments (7)

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  1. Hello Chelsea can't help you with any of the insights you are looking for. I am just starting my own scary journey into creating an online business.I enjoyed reading this article and intend to read some of your other articles as time permits. Keep up the good work.

  2. Orvel Sternberg says:

    Just reinforces that saying, " keep your eye on the prize". Great examples and tips.

  3. Gin says:

    I'd say building and maintaining a 'high' visibility with your target market helps also. Interact on forums and social media. Brutal honesty about topics (news) or sharing information helps bring potential customers too. Not too much time, use power of 3 and good time management.

  4. Upnexus says:

    I am just one year into my online business but sometimes I feel like I am not capable of doing this thing. But I just keep going hoping to breakthrough with my own business.

    Your story has been a worthy read most especially the first point of actually having and calling it a "business" so you can take it serious, and the fact that despite everything, the bottom line which is profits and revenue is what matters the most.

    Good Job.

  5. Hey Chelsea. Thanks for the great post! Really insightful and useful.

    Cheers,

    David

  6. Daniel says:

    Thanks Chelsea,
    Unfortunately, I can't share any success story or insight yet, still struggling to make the first buck online...

  7. Amar kumar says:

    Hey Chelsea,

    When we first start a business we need a lot of research. New business owners have numerous goals when they're starting out, including rapid growth and recognition for their fledgling venture.

    The key to a successful online business, especially in the startup phase, is to keep things simple and costs low. Costs don’t just mean your monetary costs, but also our time. If we are planning to make our new business full-time job, it's wise to wait until we have at least some money put away for startup costs and for sustaining ourself in the beginning before we start making a profit.

    Customers perceptions of our business can really make or break a business. Deliver quality experiences and products, and they'll quickly sing our praises on social media. Fast growth depends on making our current and potential customers happy with their experience. Great informative post regarding this subject and going to helpful for many needy bloggers and online marketers to maximize their productivity level.

    With best wishes,

    Amar kumar