No matter how old you are or what stage of life you are in, it is never too late (or too early) to pursue your passion. Perhaps you work a full-time job, and only have time to spare on the weekends. Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom like I was hoping to make an income to help supplement your household income. Perhaps you aren’t becoming an entrepreneur for money, but instead to fulfill a life-long dream. Maybe you want to start a business or blog because you want to develop a system, organization, or product to help others.
Whatever your reason, I applaud you.
Owning your own business, or becoming an entrepreneur is a very admirable path to take. It tells the world that you are unique, and not afraid to step out in faith and go against the grain. One day, you will become your own boss, and play by your own rules.
Good things never come from comfort zones.
In my career as an online entrepreneur, I have been a graphic designer, a virtual assistant, a brand strategist, a photographer, a social media marketer, a blogger, and an author over the course of six years. Of all the above job titles that I have, there has been one crucial practice that I have always used to become and remain successful in all that I have done. That one thing? Discipline. Not a business degree, not grants, investments, or scholarships. Just good old-fashioned self-control.
I had to have the discipline to learn new things. I had to have discipline to keep going when things weren’t working. I had to practice discipline each time I sat down to create something new. I had to exercise discipline to step out of my comfort zone to try new things and meet new people.
Formal education will make you a living.
Self-education and experience can make you a fortune.
When I first started out in 2011, I didn’t have the money to hire the people I needed to make my dreams come true. So I did the next best thing…I used my creative abilities and a strong sense of determination to figure it out. Over the last six years, I have read hundreds of books (I read one book per week), watched hundreds of tutorials, and spent many countless nights practicing, tweaking, and starting over.
Now, I use all of the knowledge I have gained to help other purpose-driven women to pursue their dreams. I am grateful for my mistakes because those mistakes have become apart of my testimony behind my business and my brand.
7 Honest Business Tips I Have Learned from Being an Online Entrepreneur
1. Be careful who you share your dreams and ideas with. Entrepreneurship is no easy task – so you will need to build a great support system. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to move forward with your vision. You will be devoting a lot of time and energy to starting your business, so be sure to let those closest to you know what is going on, and what you are doing. Include your spouse, children, or other or loved ones as you embark on your journey. Never share your ideas with those who only have negative words to say about you or your business.
2. Start with what you have. When I began blogging in 2013, all I had was a laptop (with a cracked screen) and a borrowed internet connection from my neighbor. I worked just fine with what I had until I saved and had money for better equipment. The key is to learn how to work with what you have to the best of your ability. Don’t worry about buying the most expensive equipment or software (just yet). Some of the greatest companies started in a garage or living room. Take each day one step at a time. In the early stages, your first concern should always be doing your best work to grow your business.
3. Get your name out there early. A popular misconception is that you have to have everything about your business perfected before you start advertising. From personal experience, I have learned that the best way to get customers is to start promoting yourself from Day 1. When you meet new people, introduce yourself as your new entrepreneurial title.
On April 15, 2011, I decided to become a wedding planner. That same day I placed an AD on Craigslist advertising myself as a wedding planner. On April 17, 2011, I received an email from a woman hiring me to plan her wedding. After receiving that email, I used the next few days getting my business in order. When I met her in person, I had everything in place and in order. My stationery had my brand logo on it, I had questions and surveys for her to complete, and all of my branding and payments systems were neat and professional.
Because I was so professional, she had no idea that she was my first client in a business that I had started a week prior. Was it the conventional way of doing things? No. Did it work? Yes.
4. Remain professional at all times. Professionalism has the power to set you apart from your competition, so always keep it classy. Here’s how I remain professional when handling business online:
- If you post a photo of your product, be sure the photo is of high quality.
- When you speak to your customers, speak confidently.
- When you write your blog posts, be sure to use grammar and spell check.
- Don’t tarnish your reputation by arguing with customers on your Facebook page.
Always put your best foot forward and do your best when it comes to everything concerning your business and brand. As a new business owner, your reputation in these early stages can either help or hinder where you go in the future.
5. Use word of mouth and social media to your advantage. Billions of people from all over the world are connected to the internet – and most of them carry it around with them all day every day on their smartphones. Use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and other social media outlets to get your business out there. In the above example, I gave the example of how I placed a free AD on Craigslist and received my first customer in 2011. Now, because of the impact of social media and the internet, there are hundreds of different ways to get free advertising for your business.
The internet gives you a platform to make yourself and your business look and sound good to those who may be interested in your product or service…for free. Facebook Groups are perfect for finding local customers in your area who need your service. Websites like Fivver.com are perfect for listing and marketing your services for free to find potential buying customers. Before you pay hundreds of dollars in advertisements, tell your friends and co-workers about your business. Pass out flyers and business cards as a conversation starter. Give people a chance to get to know you as an entrepreneur and all that your business has to offer.
6. Plan well and be patient. Many people I have talked to have a glamorous idea of what being an online entrepreneur is like. Although very rewarding, I like to remind those just starting out that it takes hard work and discipline to build something from the ground up. Whether you are starting a business, building a personal brand, writing a book, or filming video, this job is not for the weak at heart.
Learn to take yourself and your ideas seriously because there will be days when you will want to quit. The more confident you become in what you do, the more you will be able to accomplish over time. Write out a mission statement (one paragraph or less) about what your business does and how it helps people. This will help keep you on track of what your overall purpose and goal is as you build the foundation of your business. Create an elevator pitch (a verbal summary no longer 20 seconds) that you can confidently use to explain to people what your business is all about. Memorize and practice your elevator pitch and become familiar with it.
7. Manage your money. Here’s another fun fact about being an entrepreneur: As the business owner, you will be the last to get paid. Your most important financial task is making sure you have enough money to cover your expenses. The money you make will have to be recycled back into making more product and growing your company. If you aren’t good at handling your money (or are tempted to spend what you make on new clothes and shoes) then you may need to get help in this area.
Because you are just starting, every dollar matters. The last thing you want is for your business to cost your money instead of making money for you. There are many financial advice videos, blogs, courses, and classes you can take if you need more discipline in this area.