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Top 10 Mistakes in Starting an Online Business

Every week I talk with entrepreneurs. We talk about what’s working and what isn’t. We talk about successes and failures. I spend time with both complete newbies and seasoned veterans, and everything in between.

I have a pretty fantastic job.

One topic that comes up over and over again with both groups is mistakes made in starting businesses.

Newbies love to know which mistakes are common so they can avoid them. Veterans love to talk about things they wish they had known or had done differently.

This weekend I was at the World Domination Summit in Portland with 3,000 ambitious people, and this topic came up dozens of times. “What do you wish you had done differently?” “What mistakes do people make starting out?” “I wish I hadn’t…”

So I put together a summary of the mistakes people shared with me, combined with the mistakes we see being made every week through our work with new entrepreneurs at Fizzle and elsewhere.

Here are the Top 10 biggest mistakes made when starting an online business:


1. Waiting too long to launch a product/service

When you start blogging or podcasting to build an audience, it’s easy to get stuck on the content “hamster wheel” for months or years without ever offering something for sale.

There are a few reasons this happens.

Some people are waiting for some magic audience size “1,000 subscribers” or maybe “10,000 visitors” or whatever your number might be.

Some people just can’t find the time to blog or podcast or make videos AND to build a product at the same time. It’s tough.

Some people simply talk themselves out of creating a product because they’re afraid no one will buy it. They don’t want to fail after putting in so much time creating content.

Whatever the reason, this is a fatal trap. If you’re building a business, you need to address the biggest risk head-on. The biggest risk you’ll face as a business is in creating something no one will pay for.

Plus, you need practice at building and launching products. Your first one might not be all that good. The sooner you put something out there, the closer you get to sustainable revenue.


2. Solving an unimportant problem

If the problem your business solves is important enough, you won’t even have to look for customers. Imagine if you had a cure for cancer, for example.

Businesses fail all the time because they try to solve a problem nobody really cares about. If you put your product or idea out there and nobody buys it, there’s a good chance you should look for a more important problem, not a bigger audience.


3. Not really listening to customers

How do you know if the problem you solve is important enough?

Listen to your customers. Really listen to them.

Don’t just listen to the customers who provide validation. Listen to the ones who ask for refunds or buy your product but don’t use it. Listen to the people who tell you they won’t buy, and find out why.

Don’t just pay lip service to your customers. You don’t have all the answers, they do. There’s a reason why “the customer is always right,” because without customers you don’t have a business.


4. Not being different

In most markets, customers have different options to choose from. If your business has competition, you have to give your potential customers a reason to choose your offering over another.

I see this all the time with new bloggers. They jump into a popular topic and essentially mimic or copy what other popular bloggers are already doing. I suppose they think “if it works for them, maybe it will work for me.”

But think about it from the reader or customer perspective. If they find your blog, they’ll be asking themselves “why is this blog worth spending any time on?” You have to answer that question quickly and clearly, before they click the back button.

You can’t expect to grow an audience by being an inferior version of some other better known site. Even if your site or product is arguably better than the competition, “better” is subjective.

Instead of simply trying to be better, you need to be different. Then, when someone asks why your site or product is worth her attention, your answer will be objective and easy to understand.


5. Choosing a topic you don’t care about

Whatever you choose to focus your business on, you’re going to need deep subject knowledge, fresh creativity, and unwavering stamina.

There will be competition who cares more about the topic than you do. How can you compete if the gap between your love of a topic and your competitors’ is wide?

This doesn’t mean your business has to be your #1 “passion” or life’s work (most of us don’t have one single passion in life), but don’t make things impossible by choosing something you don’t care about.

If you love your topic, stamina won’t be an issue. If you love your topic, creativity will flow, and influence will be easier to build.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. -Howard Thurman


6. Starting with vastly wrong expectations

This won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick.

Building a successful business is a massive undertaking. You probably can’t do it while traveling the world. If you have a full-time job, it will be much, much harder.

If your plan involves four-hour workweeks, or if your timeline is measured in weeks or months, you will probably fail.

These are the hard truths that people rarely talk about. Overnight successes don’t exist. Your original plan will probably have to be completely re-written, maybe multiple times.

Ask yourself: will building this business still be worth it if it takes years to get there? What if building the business is harder and more stressful than your current job?

Talk to some entrepreneurs who have achieved something close to what you want to achieve. Ask them what it really took. Ask them about stress and timelines and giving up. Ask them not to sugarcoat it. Really listen. Then ask yourself if you’re prepared for your own version of that.


7. Spending too much time thinking and not enough doing

Not much to say here that isn’t perfectly summed up in this quote:

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.
-Thomas Edison

If your ratio of thinking-to-doing is anything less than 80% doing, think again do more.

As Chase likes to say, entrepreneurs have two modes, CEO mode and worker-bee mode. In a one-person business, you have to be both.


8. Going it alone

The only reason my business exists today is because other entrepreneur friends wouldn’t let me quit. Seriously, I tried to throw in the towel and start over with something else, but they wouldn’t let me. They talked me out of it.

No one can succeed in business alone. You need people to make it work. Your customers are people, your suppliers are people, your service providers are people.

Most importantly, you need support from other entrepreneurs who are at similar stages as you are, and from others with more experience.

The more connected you become with other entrepreneurs, the more normal your quest becomes. You’ll no longer feel crazy or alone, and you’ll realize that we all face obstacles just like you’re facing.

The entrepreneurs who talked me out of quitting were part of a little group that met weekly to hold each other accountable. It didn’t cost any of us a thing, other than an hour of our time each week, but it turned out to be the most valuable resource I ever used in my business.

Reach out to another entrepreneur or two, and ask them to meet weekly. Share your struggles and goals, and review your progress each week. This simple process is so powerful.


9. Confusing “blog” with “business”

Repeat after me: a blog isn’t a business. A blog isn’t a business.

A blog is an incredible platform for sharing your ideas, connecting with people and growing an audience. The same is true of podcasting, YouTubing, or any other place you might publish content for free.

Giving away free content isn’t a business. It’s a tool for building influence. Don’t count on turning that influence into sponsorships or advertising dollars. You’ll need a more direct plan for earning an income if you want your blog or podcast to pay off.

See point #1 above about launching a product/service.


10. What would you add to this list?

This is my list, from what I hear and see in the entrepreneurial world.

Is your list different?

What things do you wish you had done differently?

What mistakes do you see new entrepreneurs making?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. You might just help someone avoid a big mistake. If you think this list is helpful, please pass it along!

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  • http://www.stirringthesoul.com siobhan mcauley

    Excellent post! I need to print this out and stick it on my office wall to remind when the going gets tough – I need to keep going. Thanks.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Thanks! You get bonus points if you send us a photo of this on your office wall :)

    • http://www.marketingyourfarm.com/new-here/ Iain

      That’s a really great idea actually Siobhan. I rarely think about printing something out these days.

      This is definitely something worth printing out though. Doing the action of printing it out and seeing it everyday will help it stick in your head.

  • http://www.teachingthecore.com Davesie

    Hey fellas,

    I would add a triple exclamation point underscore to #s 1 and 4. It took me a year to offer my first ebook via Gumroad, and, honestly, I didn’t do much to launch the product, I just kind of got it out there. Currently, it’s listed at $1+ and makes about $14 / week. But, like you say in this post, that first product is more about getting something out there and learning what works and doesn’t as it is about making mad scrilla. I may not be making mad scrilla, but I am envisioning a more effective and epic launch for the next info product.

    And in terms of #4 (Being Different), I can still remember driving home from a pretty boring ed policy conference in Lansing, MI, and thinking, “Geez, why did I go to this?” when it hit me: I can be different by bringing a somewhat irreverant, non-freaked out approach to education (and, in particular, the standards that I’m niched into). There are 3.5 million teachers in the USA, and if even 10% of them are like-minded folks who simply refuse to freak out with Chicken Little dances, that’s a great market.

    I know that these preliminary thoughts and successes are thanks to the marinating that my brain has done in your stuff. Thanks, guys.

    BTW, any advice on finding a local mastermind group? I’ve heard the term thrown around now and then, but don’t know of any entrepreneurs in my area.

    Cheers,
    Dave

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Thanks for sharing! Nice work getting both “mad scrilla” and “chicken little dances” in your comment Dave, I think that’s a first.

      Mastermind groups don’t have to be local. Mine have always been hosted over Skype or Google Hangouts, and they’re quite effective that way. Just email a couple of people you think would be a good match for you, regardless of where they are.

  • http://www.evolveyourweddingbusiness.com Heidi Thompson

    Going all in without first creating a minimum viable product.

  • http://www.lifeisorganized.com Mridu Parikh

    I launched with a complex model and have since been paring down and simplifying and simplifying — getting back to the basics. I now know it should have been the other way around!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Yep, great addition (similar to Heidi’s above). Starting with a model that is too complicated could easily be on this list.

  • http://www.joomlaprofessor.com Joomla Professor

    This is a great article. I have been doing this for some time and I feel like throwing in the towel. I definitely need a support group of other entrepreneurs. Great points Corbett..

    • http://blogboldly.com/starting-an-online-business/ Darlene with BlogBoldly

      Prof..

      I strongly encourage you to reach out and form a mastermind group.

      I have skyrocketed my biz since doing so.

      It’s not just the brilliant ideas and camaraderie.. it’s the accountability!

      ~darlene

    • http://www.troublesometots.com Alexis

      Darlene – How did you grow your mastermind group? I totally see the value in this but haven’t had much luck trying to get something going myself. I’m currently working on forming a local tribe (geographically speaking) with the idea that meeting in person might be really beneficial to us all although we’re all in different blog categories. How did you form your group? Who gets invited? What are the perks to membership? I would love to know!
      Thanks:)
      Alexis

    • http://blogboldly.com/starting-an-online-business/ Darlene with BlogBoldly

      Hi Alexis..

      First off I have to say I love your blog. Perfect example of targeted niche and I like the fresh, colorful look.

      About the mastermind..

      I went to a Mike Koenig event and met two people from Austin (I live just outside in TX Hill Country) who both said they wanted to form a mastermind. I was thinking like you, that it would be fun to have a local mastermind where we could meet once a month or something.

      The woman flaked out and I didn’t want to have a one on one mastermind with a guy. Call me old fashioned but I’m married so I didn’t think it was appropriate.

      Meanwhile I had kept in touch with someone I met at the Larry Winget/Suzanne Evans event. We decided to exchange expertise. I taught her how to guest post and she taught me how to create a product.

      We met (via phone) twice a week. Once we completed, I thought we were done.. but thankfully she said no, we should continue with a mastermind.

      So each Mon (set time) we meet for an hour and go over struggles/ideas and plan for the week.

      Then on Thurs (set time) we meet again for an hour for accountability.

      It’s great because she’s a life coach and I’m an online marketer, so we bring two completely different skill sets to the table.

      (( FYI, I didn’t plan on writing a dissertation but what the heck! ))

      The main point is you can have an extremely effective mastermind with just one other person. BTW, my mastermind partner has been a part of many group mastermind but says ours is the best.

      I recommend reaching out to someone who isn’t necessarily in your circle so together you can bring fresh, creative help to each other. Maybe do a trial run.. because we didn’t commit until we had already worked together about three weeks with the teaching stuff.

      If you want to talk more about it, contact me at blogboldly.com/contact/

      ~darlene :)

  • http://aninternetbusinessmadeeasy.com Melanie

    Hi Corbett,

    One of the biggest mistakes I made in the beginning was aiming for perfection. That was until a savvy marketer pointed out that “Good enough out performs perfect every time.”

    The reason being…good enough is out there making sales, while perfect is still at home being tweaked…and tweaked…and tweaked!

    Mel

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Absolutely Melanie, great addition. I’ve gotten stuck in the perfection zone before, not a fun place to be.

  • http://blogboldly.com/starting-an-online-business/ Darlene with BlogBoldly

    Well #2 sure got my attention..

    I’m always telling my peeps they must solve a problem.. sometimes I say “pressing problem” other times “urgent problem”..

    It never occurred to me to say “important!” Geez! But you’re right. It dang well BETTER be important.

    ~darlene :)

  • http://www.goodtogreatbusiness.com Adam Bate

    These are really spot on. Another one for me would be to keep motivated. I consider motivation like bathing – it needs to be done daily. Especially when you’re trying to make it with your own business.

  • http://pjrvs.com paul

    Clarity is something most people miss. They get so caught up in what they’re building, they forget that others need to understand it and hopefully buy it. I read far too many sites and at the end of reading, I haven’t a clue what they do or why they’re charging $300 for their 45 minute skype call.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Wait, you mean people have to *understand* what you’re offering??

      So true Paul, I see this all the time as well. Thanks for the addition.

  • http://writers-elite.com Robin Bright

    What a timely post, Corbett, especially since I’m on day 3 of the creation process of my 30 Day Online Business Success training. I remember talking to you last year, in a desperate email, asking you HOW I could possibly hit the next level of success online. I just couldn’t see it. You, of course, probably thought I was crazy for NOT noticing the millions of opportunities out there to teach, to offer needed services, products, and more.
    I think what I would have done differently in my self-employment walk would be to start sooner, yes…definitely..and also to do what’s right for ME. So often we want to model after someone else who has been there or “made it” but replicated clones of Tony Robbins or Corbett Barr is not what the world needs.
    We each have something that WE personally have been designed to do on this earth. We each have a destiny and a purpose. I kept deviating off of my calling because it’s “weird” it’s “different” and I have to go alone. That’s okay! Going alone sometimes means nothing more than “you’re on the right track!” and amazingly, when I was willing to break out and blaze a different trail, I found other likeminded people when I got there…so, a whole new circle of connections.
    Thanks for all your support through the years and great post!
    Bottom line, BE UNIQUELY YOU! That’s what did it for me!
    Robin

    • http://twitter.com/roudvolf Rodolfo Oliveira

      I totally agree with you! It is frightening to take the leap specially if you can’t find anyone around who is doing the same! But every time I think of it I regret not starting early!

  • http://www.alidavies.com Ali Davies

    Thought your list was spot on and enjoyed the reminders. In answer to your question “what would you add to this list?” I would say don’t take failures, mistakes and setbacks personally. See it all as an experiment from which you can learn, grow and improve. When stuff goes wrong learn the lesson, apply the learning then move on.

    • http://otitijasmine.com Otiti

      Yes, and especially don’t hack your self-esteem to pieces when things don’t go exactly the way you thought they would. Been there, done that; AWFUL place to be in; like purgatory on speed-dial.

  • http://www.helloglowcoaching.com Linzi Wilson

    Love this list…. My add on ? Don’t use someone else’s definition of success. Just because success means having a fancy car & a big house to the guy down the road doesn’t mean that is what you should be striving for.
    Success means different things for different people. For me it’s more about being location independent & having the flexibility within my week so I can surf.
    Figure out what success means to you before chasing someone else’s version of it :)

    • http://twitter.com/roudvolf Rodolfo Oliveira

      Very nice add! I would say that you shouldn’t make the jump before you know what you truly want out of life, because maybe it is not the entrepeneurial life, maybe it is just a change of career and knowing that before having all the hard work to build a blog and then simply hating it is very important!

  • http://www.freshwisdomonline.com Reggie

    This is brilliant. Great information. It’s interesting for me to read about getting a product out quickly. Makes sense how you explain it here but I’ve read so much about building an audience first. I like your approach to not be afraid to put out a good product even if the audience isn’t ideal. Thanks for this.

  • http://www.christianmarieherron.com Christian Marie Herron

    Great post and I especially resonated with #8 Going It Alone.

    Reaching out and connecting with other business owners was key to keeping my sanity. I too wanted to quit but luckily found the support I needed to keep going.

    The other thing I would add is to be willing to let go of connections or relationships that are not serving you. This was so tough for me. Sometimes people try to connect with you for ulterior motives and you need to learn to spot these. If the products or services don’t resonate with you, don’t feel guilty for not agreeing to promote.

  • http://bluecapra.com Alan Reeves

    My addition to this already great list is not investing money in the beginning. I know that money is tight when you start a business but focusing your funds on the important things (like design, knowledge, etc) . There are times to scrimp and save and there are times to invest. By not investing in the beginning, you tend to greatly limit your growth

  • Adam

    Visitors, users, and subscribers. Know the difference.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/116971544436746679814 Yassin Madwin

    In my case, I’m just stuck with my financial limitations which force me to be passion.

    Thanks to my psychology background. i know how the IM game is played. I know how people “think” and what makes them tick.

    though, i learned something, ethics don’t sell. in the long term yes. but there is no long term if you don’t make money sooner.

    That scam vendor, and that black hat SEOer will always make more money before you can.

    • http://twitter.com/roudvolf Rodolfo Oliveira

      They may make money before you but they will not be around for too much time… trust me, if you build an audience, have ethics and provide value, you’re gonna be around for a long time and the scammers will eventually be eliminated!

  • http://exceljet.net Dave Bruns

    Great post. Heidi mentioned it already, but I echo the idea of thinking MVP (minimum viable product) all the time about everything you’re doing. Think: how can I validate before committing? This simple idea can save you weeks or months of fruitless effort.

    There’s a great video that get’s this point across nicely here:

    http://leanstartupmachine.com/validationboard/#slide3

  • http://www.yogahealer.com Cate Stillman

    I was at WDS too – good to know you were there.
    There was something else about collaboration that struck me. The synergy that arises from collaboration and learning from mistakes.

    In my business I think of my clients as collaborators. I think of my JV partners as collaborators. On my high end sales calls – I’m collaborating with the potential customer.

    We’re all in this together.

  • http://www.TeachingInternationally.com Chris P.

    I wish I would have not tried to come up with a new, remarkable widget. I should have just started with what I knew the most about. I wasted time mulling over what I thought were “ground breaking” ideas instead of using the information that was right in front of my face and already in my brain.

  • http://twitter.com/roudvolf Rodolfo Oliveira

    I would say my problem is that I get dazzled with all the info, products and education around the subject and I tend to buy it all and get really stuck. It is not really like nr. 1 where you are planning but like this awe you get and want to consume every little bit of thing about the subject and it makes you spend a lot of money and time. That is what I am struggling with right now.

    • http://mommecircle.com Ruth

      Rodolfo, I know exactly what you mean and I am in a similar position. It’s hard to stay focused because I keep thinking I need more information to ‘better’ my craft before I launch something. I think it’s also got to do with a ‘perfectionist’ streak in me. Now I see #1 really makes a lot of sense.

  • http://CRMCheatSheet.com Ray Simon

    All good points, of course, and thank you.

    The whole “building an audience” is challenging for me. I’m not much of a blog subscriber myself, and so I’m really not quite sure what makes a blog tasty enough for someone to subscribe to. I solve more of a technical business problem… one of those things that if you need it, you REALLY need it now. And if you don’t need it, then you’re not really interested in getting weekly updates talking about it (I would imagine).

    Maybe someone has ideas or could point me to a blog similar in nature so I can learn from someone else who has cracked this nut.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.theuncagedlife.com Rebecca Tracey

    Double, extra YES to #5 and #6. I think I’d also add jumping in too quickly without a plan.Not a business plan, but a MONEY plan. I see SO many people quit their jobs and start businesses with NO backup funds, and then freak out when they are broke. Have a backup fund OR be totally ok with living out of a van when you get started (I literally did this to save money when I started my business). Plus, living in a van is just super fun anyway, so you can pretend you’re doing it because you want to and not just because you’re broke! :)

  • http://www.becomeunstoppable.com Steve

    I would add trying to be “bigger than you are”, or not being “you”. Otherwise you fit into the “not being different” mode like #4. The more personality, the more you become a magnet. I struggle with this often when I try to mix “business aspects” into my “blog” and finding that right balance.

  • http://www.thecreativegiraffe.com Ellen

    Yes to number 8!! Going at it alone is the worst – AND no one does this in any other arena, except maybe, maybe writers. But even then. The community you build, your friends, is key to keeping your motivation and energy going, plus who knows what fun projects might arise! This is awesome Corbett, thanks!

  • http://www.jetlaunch.net Chris O’Byrne

    Choose a business model with a higher cost of entry. Don’t choose something anyone can do. The cost of entry might be the knowledge you’ve learned through experience or education. It might be a monetary investment. It might be your connection with a high value partner. Ask yourself, “How many other people could do this?”

  • http://www.designingachampion.com Matt

    Awesome post! I can totally relate to this. I have a couple of businesses(3 actually) and have done both the “traditional” business route, and now am working on the online business route. If I had only known has rolled off my tongue more than once.

  • http://www.sarahsbakestudio.com Sarah

    I have owned several Internet business’ and the one thing that I have learned that I tell people is start out small and work to big. Give yourself time to grow, see what works, and build some cash flow. I was so excited and had so many “big” ideas when I started my last business that I flew out the gates with guns blazing. This cost me time and money that I didn’t really have yet.

    I think I could have been far more successful in previous endeavors had I known this sage advice. I still battle with being a successful entrepreneur everyday, but every mistake and lesson learned sends me in a better direction.

  • http://simplegreensmoothies.com Jadah Sellner

    This is a great list! These I can really attest to when it comes to monetizing your passions online:

    #1 launch: I knew I wanted to write a green smoothie ebook since 2011 (I didn’t make any money during this time thinking about writing it). I didn’t launch until 2013 (I started making 5-figures a month consistently since I launched Jan. 31, 2013).

    #3 listening: I created a community targeted towards what I wanted to write about. I learned by providing value to my audience that what I was writing wasn’t what they wanted. So I rewrote an entirely new ebook the month of January. And every product I’ve launched after that has been in direct response to what my community is struggling with and needs help with.

    #4 different: I knew who my competitors were in the very beginning. I studied their offerings and their engagement with their audience. I saw several holes that I could fill. Knowing that my offering was unique, gave me more confidence to raise my flag and not get bogged down by their success.

    #8 support: I have a business partner, but I also have a mastermind partner (since 2011) and that has been so helpful. I get to brainstorm ideas, be held accountable and have insight from someone who is not inside my business everyday. I also now lead a mastermind group for moms, and I love spreading this powerful tool to others to find their own accountability partners in life and business.

    #9 blog: So true. I blogged 3-4 posts weekly on my first website in 2011 because that’s what the industry said we should be doing. I sulked when there were no comments. Wondered why we would get a large spike of traffic, but no one would stick around. Applying all the things you’ve mentioned in this list with #1 being the most important, I’ve seen a major switch in my online business. I now have over 169,000 Instagram followers, 46,000 Facebook Fans, and over 130,000 email subscribers. I love what I do and I’m making a difference in the world being authentic and true to myself and dreams.

  • http://collabmango.com Clinton Skakun

    Great post! I’ve made all of these mistakes a few times. Finally, getting to the point where I’m learning. But yes, these are the killers.

  • http://www.smartbusinessrevolution.com John Corcoran

    I think I’ve made all of these problems at one time or another.

    Another big suggestion is finding small and easy ways to test business ideas and assumptions. I think this is implicit in your post. For example, if you have an idea for a digital course, you may do a free webinar on the same topic first. If you can’t get enough people to show up for a free webinar, then there probably isn’t enough interest for a paid product on the topic.

  • http://growingmindfulness.nl Arjan van Woensel

    Great post.
    As for your question about what things do you wish you had done differently?
    Start with a very good checkout flow / payment gateway right from the start. I’ve spent too much time thinking I could whack some checkout together with PayPal and a (typical Dutch) bank payment system, but ended up with a lot of coding and hacking into WordPress to make it all happen. Actually, the right checkout still hasn’t been implemented #@!^&*^

    As for your other question about what mistakes do you see new entrepreneurs making?
    Funnily enough I see them putting waaaay too much time in getting a logo right, or getting the right logo. And then spending too much time on the design and flavour of their blog, instead of focusing on getting their content & product out there.
    And mind you, I’m a designer, so I should advise people to put a lot of thought and effort into design. But a lot of starters seem too preoccupied about what other people (read: friends, ex-colleagues, family) will think of them, instead of delivering their first customers with what they want.

    Your piece was a timely one. it seems the “should I give up on this thing?” question is always a wee bit too close when you’re building a business on the internet.

    All the best
    Arjan

  • http://www.spencermcdonald.net Spencer McDonald

    Just a note. I read every blog post you guys put out. The writing is Epic Shit. This helps me think about and build my business. I am an HDR photographer.

    Unfortunately, my photo biz is waning. I sell about $100 worth of product right now and as I think about my blog it seems one side. What I mean by this is my blog promotes my Stunning Photographic Art. I think it is not unique enough to catch fire.

    Recently, I have been thinking about my other passion… motivation and inspiration. I have though that maybe my unique advantage is to merge my photos with words of motivation. I could add more products such as posters, calendars, cd’s, etc. much like one of those motivation sites. It would be personal to my photography and my knack for inspiring others.

    I am asking for others to comment on this approach. Is this something that you may be interested in coming back to again and again? I am seeking hones feedback. Thank you in advance.

    • http://falconerwebmarketing.com Aaron Baldassare

      Hey there, Spencer. I guess you already noticed that brands on Facebook and Pinterest love to use photos with inspirational quotes on them to build community. Maybe you could generate some interest over time in your work, then start charging brands, bloggers for access. Before you try it, though, make sure a few people are willing to pay for quality rather than using a free alternative. Money speaks louder than words, eh? :) I would also suggest focusing on a niche, like fitness or Christian dating, or something.

    • http://crmcheatsheet.com Ray Simon

      Spencer,

      I’m very sorry to hear that cash flow is low for your business right now. I’ve been there too. So have many others.

      I don’t know enough about blogs and building audience to contribute to why something does or does not “catch fire”. I do know a few things about “pivoting” in your business and going in a new direction.

      I’ll say the best decisions regarding my business were not made in a vacuum. They started as an idea but then were refined (or sometimes nixed) by bouncing them off of trusted colleagues that were successful in their own endeavors.

      This is especially true if the change is in response to low cash flow because you are (or at least I was) susceptible to poor analysis of viable options and an outside reality check is the bad tasting medicine that one needs.

      I hope this was helpful.

  • http://www.DigitalCollective.co Mical Johnson

    My BIG mistake….

    I didn’t get out of the office more. For my first 3-4 years in business I didn’t have a client in the state where my business was located. This made me very disconnect with the other business people in the community that I could have gotten support from.

    More importantly, I was leaving a lot of money on the table from people in my back yard that would have loved to deal with someone local AND would have gladly referred more business my way.

    Now I’ve learned that no matter what business I’m in there is at least one customer in my city that I should connect with.

  • http://gotchseo.com/ Natedawg (Gotch SEO)

    A simple, but incredibly accurate list! I’m definitely guilty of making mistake #2 in the past, but it was an important lesson to learn.

    Thanks for the great post
    – Gotch

  • http://falconerwebmarketing.com Aaron Baldassare

    This is a super important post, Corbett.

    Thank you for busting the “make money blogging” myth. You nailed it. Blogging is a tool to build influence, trust, a brand. It can also add to profit, not by increasing revenue, but rather by reducing operating expenses. That is another overlooked benefit.

    By the way, it’s fascinating, isn’t it, that most of these problems need to be solved BEFORE starting a business?

    I think the biggest killer of new ventures is good ideas. A good idea sparks the imagination, causes the founder to invest heavily in a dream, and much of that investment goes into building filters to bad news, which ensures you will be way too overconfident and prevents you from transforming a good idea into an idea that works. The end result can get pretty ugly, and usually involves uncontrollable crying. (That’s right. Real men cry.) As an idea man, I have learned the hard way to distrust my ideas. Better to start with some problems worth solving that I am uniquely able to address and build a simple MVP prototype with no expectation that it will work. Then find out what is wrong with it, fix it, repeat.

    The weird thing is that while it sounds disheartening to distrust your own good ideas, trying things out and making discoveries is a whole heck of a lot more fun, and effective.

    While getting started quickly is great, it makes the most sense to start as small as possible, stress-test immediately and fine tune quite a bit before making any big commitments. Sink or swim in business too often ends up “sink.”

  • Klara

    Spencer, my friend’s bro shoots for the National Geographic. He saw the plain photography market slow down with all the digital media within the beginner’s reach. So he turned in around and now promotes language and culture preservation using photography. It’s so cool. As soon as you said “inspiration”, my heart jumped. I am very visual so I would totally buy it. It gets my emotional brain.
    I am a total newbie to marketing. I haven’t truly started my business, but I slow myself down with the logos, website, impatience, perfectionism. I look at the professionals in my field who already made it and think I can not match them. What did happen that I started a supportive community for my prospective clients and that is growing like a wildfire. It’s been just 3 months since I opened my mouth about what I do and things are really moving. Even though there is no dollar value, I am forming valuable connections. But because this community and my future full time awesome is my huge passion, it was easy to do. I somehow did not really care if it was perfect. Now I am realizing that I have no business or game plan so I am slowing down and will address this before it’s too late.
    Here come my point. You would not be reading this blog if you didn’t have a unique approach on paper or in your head. Imagine how many people are waiting for your product. They don’t care if your first one sucks. Thank you guys for making it clear to me. I will soon start working on my first sucker. Cause without the first one there in nothing.

    BTW if anyone is interested about connecting with a newbie for a chat or group I would be totally up for it.

  • http://www.caregivingstrategies.com Ellen Reaves

    Thanks for posting this. I really needed to hear (what my husband has been saying for a while) that just because I have a blog, doesn’t translate into a real business. And here all along I think I have been doing something great and fabulous. That smack in the face was sooooo necessary. I need to really focus on where is the revenue going to come from. My approach to this is like a serious business but my actions say cool hobby.
    Here’s the thing, even though I am re-launching my website to reflect my business structure I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself thinking about the next thing or my first product (I think I want to do an EBook) without fully completing what I am working on now which is my new podcast (Launch 9/15/13).

  • http://www.profound-impact.com Julie Gray

    Corbett, thanks for this post and great conversation.

    I’ve made my way to the blogging/online business world as a coach who has spent the first 5 years of my business with the traditional brochure website and ‘newsletter blog’.

    Talk about a snooze fest.

    I’ve always been interested in online marketing, content marketing, seo, blogging, videos, the good stuff. But it was only very recently that it dawned on me that I was watching from the sidelines and I could be knee deep in all of the fun.

    The big mistake I made was not committing to getting in the game sooner. Actually stepping up to put my voice and beliefs out into the world in a bigger way.

  • http://www.getoutofstuck.net Roberta Budvietas

    Blogging for a while now but like a lot of things – you have to learn from the experts and working with the Copyblogger team, Danny Ing, Jon Morrow etc is helping. It also has a lot to do with believing in oneself and persisting and tweaking. Blogging is one part of a marketing strategy but is not a stand alone tactic. I am working hard on the collaboration one.

  • http://kimberlydhouston.com/ Kimberly

    #4 is killer important. So, so very. In fact, until I got into Fizzle at the beginning of this year, I hadn’t done the hard work of figuring out the “different” and the “better” as it applied to my business, even though I knew I really, really needed to, and even though I fully knew it was hurting my business not to get this sh*t figured out — in the form of price-shoppers and less than ideal projects and so on.

    Then I worked my way through the Defining Audience and Differentiation courses in Fizzle and finally buckled down, stopped being lazy, and did the work. And it *was* work — I spent a good 2-3 months getting uber-clear on my points of differentiation/USP/positioning and creating a clear plan for how I could best articulate that in my biz. Afterwards, everything got easier: what to write about, what services to offer, who I (very happily) serve, and the whole 9.

    The other thing that got me hamstrung in the beginning was the perfection trap that someone above mentioned as well. Good lord, the time I wasted tweaking and fretting and editing something “just one more time” before getting it out the door! I mean you wanna do the best work you can, but sheesh, you also gotta ship. So at the beginning of the year when I chose my 3 “words” or themes for the year, number one was “implementation.”

    This is a great list to print out and put on the ol’ office wall! : )

  • http://realcartagena.net/ ric

    These are great points for beginers and veterans. Reflecting on the core principles of why you do what you do can inspire and lead to more focused work. Thank you for the list….Ric

  • http://www.atmebook.com/ alex

    You have to be able to wear many hats when you go for the online marketing. Write good sales copy, seo, analyze followers, enjoy the process and repeat. It is fun but can be stressful when starting out. Like now for me. Thank you for sharing.
    Alex

  • http://www.writersbucketlist.com Dana Sitar

    Great tips, including the add-ons in the comments! Thanks :)

    I’ll add: Learning how to market before learning who you are.

    Without realizing it, I skipped over doing the good work of pinpointing my target market and ideal clients, defining my brand and my offer, figuring out my Why, etc. I studied audience-building and content marketing tactics and put a lot of work into growing a community from the start, but because I wasn’t clear myself on the purpose of my brand, I didn’t have a consistent message to share with that community to build trust and gain their interest in any kind of offers.

  • http://www.egyptianwebmaster.com Mohamed abdelwahab

    Hi Corbett,

    This is such a great post! Thank you very much for sharing this.
    I have learned something new today.

    Regards,

  • http://www.selfemploymentmastery.com.au Jan Terkelsen

    Great post, Thank you.

    All of the items on the list are worthy of reflection. The one that stands out in particular is #2. Solving an unimportant problem. We attempted to sell a Bus Bootcamp program. We got 1 person sign up and that’s because I directly offered it to a past client.
    I have learnt to test the market, start small and stay responsive.

    Also, just because it feels right, it may not sell, it just may feel right.

  • http://alextamonline.com Alex Tam

    This is a very useful post, especially for newbies.

    Honestly, I made some of these mistakes at the very beginning of my Internet marketing business. I think this post helps many newbies to avoid making some common mistakes at their online businesses.

    However, it doesn’t really matter if you really make mistakes. I can learn a lot more from the mistakes I made at the beginning of my online business journey.

    So, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just do it, take action!

    Regards,
    Alex Tam

  • http://www.cyclelove.net James Greig

    A timely reminder for me to take off my blogging blinkers and get cracking!

    Somehow I’ve been overprotective of my blog’s non-commercial status, obsessed with the idea of “not selling out” when in reality most people realise that a blog needs an income in order to survive.

    For some reason I’ve been waiting until I reach 1,000 email subscribers before I develop some kind of information-based product. I’m sure what will change when I reach that magic number though… um…

    I would add to the list: “Not extending your online brand into the real world”.

    To kickstart my mailing list I did a free popup film screening — these first 100 or so people who registered for e-tickets for the event became the basis for my mailing list.

    • Make stickers, t-shirts, anything physical which you send/sell to readers.
    • Hold a meetup in your local city, and if you have enough of a following, encourage readers to organise their own meetups where they live.
    • Send out real, printed Christmas cards.
    • Run competitions on your blog with physical prizes for the winner(s). If you blog doesn’t have enough of a presence so that you can blag these for free from brands, buy small prizes using your own money. People LOVE free stuff, even if it’s something which only costs £10 to buy.
  • http://www.supplyant.com Nick

    Hi Guys, I’d add my #10 as ‘Don’t try and do it all yourself.’

    I find it really hard to get pace on a project unless I get help. Look at your key objectives and ask how you’re going to get them done. What with work and other shit nothing ever moves as quick as you’d hope on a new project so must find ways to delegate tasks to others. This could be Mum, Dad, Wife, friend or whoever but make sure they are uber serious about completing the task for you, otherwise you’ll go even slower!

    Master the art of letting go. Focus on the key objectives and reaching them by a specific date and you’ll move mountains.

    All my luck and best wishes. Start yesterday.

  • http://www.syedmarketingblog.com Syed

    I would like to quote few more..

    1. Not having a right mindset for achieving success
    2. Starting without setting up realistic goals for different stages.
    2. Making too many distractions and deviations from a real system to shiny objects being bombarded daily in their in-boxes.
    3. Focusing too much on creating website rather than to focus on value offered in content, its marketing and monetizing plans.
    4. Quitting too early for not getting quick results for their efforts.
    5. Spamming impatiently and over keyword stuffing unnecessarily to gain quick success.
    6. Not studying competitors sufficiently to see what they are offering.
    7. Undermining the list building effort.

  • http://www.sevenstorieshigh.com Alex South

    Another gem. Okay, I’ve got one: don’t assume you know how to manage yourself.

    You are your own boss, which means you have to learn to motivate yourself every day. I think it’s easy to overlook the importance of really understanding how to get the best out of yourself.

    For example: if I get a new subscriber, I drop everything, stand up and do a silly, over the top victory dance. I think it’s important I celebrate progress.

    I also have a few special words that I like to read aloud each day before I start work. Little things like this help me keep my enthusiasm. But everyone is different and you need to figure yourself out!

  • http://www.craigmcbreen.com/ Craig McBreen

    Hi Corbett,

    Overnight successes don’t exist and #6 really resonated with me.

    “Your original plan will probably have to be completely re-written, maybe multiple times.” That’s for damn sure. There is no perfect plan and the creative, entrepreneurial path is a meandering, often torturous path. So, I love the fact that you haven’t sugar coated anything. Quite the opposite, really.

    I do need to get busy with number 8.

    I would add that you must get comfortable with taking daily baby steps.
    Keep refining your plan(s), but don’t spend too much time on planning. I used to have that disease.

    I like to decide what an ideal outcome really looks like and then do a little “so that” exercise to really flesh it out. This gets to why you want to do “it” and sometimes you end up going in a slightly different direction. It happens.

    Once I do this, I think it is very important to break your big dream into small projects and compartmentalize your days into mini projects with deadlines (baby steps).

    Stop batching tasks. It’s a waste of time. Create smaller projects and really see them through, daily! (this gives you a feeling of accomplishment and, yet another completed step on your way to your goals.

    And like I said above, realize that a truly creative process that leads to something is never linear, so change course (slightly) but don’t stop. Like I wrote, it is often a crazy, winding, difficult path.

    Put in the time daily and see what happens :)

    Get crackin’ by cracky!

  • http://liveyourlegend.net Scott Dinsmore

    Well put! Very fun to have been able to bounce ideas off you over the past few years and keep me from running into anymore brick walls than absolutely necessary. It’s been worth more than you realize. The best part is we’re just getting started…

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/live Natalie Sisson

    Great post Corbett and so good seeing you at WDS and what you have created here at Think Traffic – and who you’ve impacted as a result.

    I’d say not starting a list soon enough and then being too scared to email them often. I mean what’s up with that!!!

    • http://otitijasmine.com Otiti

      Natalie! I feel like you wrote your comment just for me! My list is tiny and I DON’T email them often *facepalm*. I mean having totally manageable numbers means I can engage them in conversation, yet my head’s been firmly in the sand longer than I care to remember. SMH. That’s all changing this week, though! I’m challenging myself to reach out and foster engagement in my tribe. Can I get a witness!? :D

  • http://www.daddylessons101.com Gerry

    #5 resonated the most for me. A few months ago, after being discharged from ICU, I decided that I really wanted to pursue my dream of being an entrepreneur, and decided to follow Pat Flynn’s advice (well most of it) and start my own niche site, choosing to creat a niche site for Pharmacy Technician training information for Canadians since I was a Pharmacy Technician for 5 years prior…Until I realized I hated the idea of writing to convince others to be Pharmacy Techs when I personally hated being a pharmacy tech! I found myself hating writing for the site, and drudged in doing the painstaking research to at least create a great information website. At least it was just $70 I spent on hosting from Bluehost, because I don’t think it will even generate any money (even with AdSense implemented)

    Loved this post and decided to write about it at my other site, http://www.passiveincomeapprentice.com. Pls. keep writing more stuff about generating traffic, would really benefit newbies like me. More power to you and all the best!

  • http://otitijasmine.com Otiti

    Sigh. #8’s bitten my ass so much my cheeks are all raggedy.

    My biggest challenge is reaching out and asking for help even after I’ve built genuine relationships with my blogger friends.

    I feel I’m taking advantage of their position by asking them for help, so yes, I’m still mired in obscurity.

    Howevah. I’m taking tiny steps each day to ask for help and detach from the outcome so I don’t sweat over getting a yes or no.

    Thanks for spotlighting the others so I avoid them!

    Fist bumps,

    Otiti

  • http://www.4dcores.com Tahir Raza

    One of the greatest post Corbett for Newbies like me..
    Last Week i also argued with a friend on Business and a Blog,We have to keep both separate..
    Thanks alot for the tips.

  • http://www.faithfilledfoodformoms.com Shari Lynne @ Faith Filled Food for Moms

    Fantastic post Corbett!! I was referred to this article and it’s just what I need! I am actually working with a Mastermind group and a Mentor..I’ve wanted to do some sort or ebook or product ever since I first started my blog…but had no idea where to start. So I’ve just been blogging along (love it) throwing in sponsored ads here and there until now…2 years later :)

    Ummm I guess you could say I’ve spent a little too much time on #7 LOL

    My mentor is helping me to see that my blog is NOT the business..but the platform…hence she sent me over here :)

    Fantastic points..and although I have nothing to add obviously…I’m just going to enjoy the learning ride :)

    Thank you for all of the great tips!!

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  • http://www.selfemployedking.com Mike Kawula

    My brilliant Coach the wonderful Jaime Tardy Eventual Millionaire hammers many of these points to me each and every call. Particularly point 1, get something out and get feedback from my audience. Who is my “Avatar” and whatever I do if it doesn’t relate to my Avatar don’t do it.

    Awesome post and loving the podcast. Mike

  • http://twitter.com/eBizGuidance Steven Fabian

    Hi there Corbett,

    Thanks for sharing these top 10 mistakes. Sometimes I think these “top failures/mistakes” posts are even more helpful than the usual “top 10 best advices” type of posts, since they give people concrete ideas about what they should avoid. For me, the biggest setback was and still is number 7, wasting too much time thinking and not enough doing. One of my favorite quotes regarding this is by Napoleon: “Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action comes, stop thinking and go in.”

    Other than that, I’d like to add two more mistakes that are common in my opinion.

    1, Attracting the wrong audience (just so that you can say you have a lot of traffic… but who are not your target audience and won’t make you a cent)
    2, This is probably the biggest mistakes of all, not reading Think Traffic from the beginning. ;-)

    Just my 2 cents.

    Thanks again for this great post,
    Steve

  • http://www.stockkevin.com Kevin H

    Hello, Corbett. Found your website through an interview you did with Mixergy’s Andrew Warner. Just wanted to say that our paths are not so different.

    I quit my job a year ago and started two online business with two different partners. Definitely have had my ups and downs and shouting matching with business partners. Wasn’t expecting to have those matches with these people, but push comes to shove and you know how it goes.

    In any event, thanks for the interview you did with Mixergy. I’m definitely going to set expectations and Plan Bs for my two ventures.

  • http://janattila.lifestartsat21.com/lcp4 Jan Attila

    In my opinion No. 2 and 4 are the important ones. If you’ve got to offer something innovative and creative, that is a very good start. Also if you’ll be able to stand out, what ever it is that you are doing, it will be a major advantage, what comes to a competition. I would also emphasize the fact, that without sufficient know-how, there won’t be a chance to survive. One last thing that i also value, is the team power (No.8). You will always benefit from the others advices and opinions.

  • http://www.minutemanage.com Stephanie

    Not promoting at all is a thing I am really guilty of. The whole “if you build it, they will come” mindset.

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  • http://www.ohmrstucker.com Mrs. Tucker (Patti)

    I eat, sleep and shit my site. I have two solid ideas to sell; two very different products that I see a need for, yet I have considered myself too new (site is six months old) to launch the products.

    I have almost 80 email subscribers, between 350-600 unique visitors per day, and I have talked myself into believing that my site is so new that it would be ridiculous to offer anything but affiliated links…that I need to build a reputation and trust first. These folks don’t know who I am yet. They don’t know that I’m not trying to bamboozle them, yet help them along in the journey, so why would they buy from me?!

    Can I speak freely? This post gave me a boot up the ass to stop being my worst enemy and get going. Start the wheels turning. I thank you for that.

    Can’t afford the classes yet, but I appreciate the words you’ve offered here.

    • http://www.themrsweb.com themrs

      whats your web address

  • http://cesar-contreras.com Cesar Contreras

    Thank you for sharing this post. Everything you share is much appreciated.

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  • http://www.motorhard.com Tom Reber

    Great post…
    I’ve been caught in the content hamster wheel. That’s changing now….

    The other biggie is being different. And, making sure it’s meeting a need, and…

    Thanks again!

  • http://newinternetorder.com Azalea Pena

    Hi Corbett, your post is spot on and I admire how easy and simple you explained things. I’m sure that budding online entrepreneurs will learn a great deal here. Just to share, when I was starting out, i encountered a couple of these mistakes and boy, they really held me back…months even. The thing is, starting onlin entreprenuers want to always be sure and safe but what they don’t realize is that making sure of every single details just takes time. Simpy put, if you know what you can offer, what makes your product unique then launch it already. Think clearly at first and then focus on doing more.

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  • http://www.theonlinenewbie.com Adrienne Dupree

    Excellent information. I will be sharing this article with my list since most of them are beginning online marketers. I really resonated with #1 and #7. I was so hesitant to produce my first product. I think it had to do with not thinking it was anything that people would want to buy. Also, I did a whole lot of thinking and learning before I ever started. I think a lot of people fall into the trap of thinking they need to know everything before they even get started.

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  • Steve

    Just revisited this post after it was mentioned on the Fizzle show. And man, I’ve found that #6 is SOOO true. There are still plenty of “gurus” who say, “Even just dedicating 15 minutes per day to your new business will get you going.” While I suppose that’s literally true, fact is, I’ve found that while I’m working my full-time gig I still need to spend no less than 2 hours per day (and preferably 4+ hours per day), 7 days per week to get a useful amount of work done. Launching a business while holding down a full-time job can certainly be done (and I’m doing it), but I think too many of the IM advice-givers sugarcoat the amount of time that actually needs to be invested. Perhaps that’s why so many people “fizzle” after a few months. They start something, then realize “Oh no…this is actually real work that takes real time!”

  • http://sminso.com/blog/ Chris Hufnagel

    I think the biggest one for me was #1. I waited years to really put my effort in to something, waiting for it to be perfect. Finally last October I got started, by January I had quit my job, and now I am traveling the US while still maintaining an income. I wish I had done this 5 years ago!

    -Chris

    • Chloe Bristow

      Wow that’s amazing! I’m really envious, haha I hope to be able to travel and have an income one day too! Little by little. :)

      • http://www.onlinebusiness.org/ Gaurav Gurbaxani

        Step by Step :) Hope you meet your goals soon enough

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  • Lark Lindig

    I still struggle with the going it alone part. I am part of several communities and been to lots of conference still struggle finding those 1-4 people who have my back and/or mentor. I see the ones that are most successful have that. I dream about having that.

  • http://wealthyassociate.com/trainingaccess Eddie C.

    Must agree that in order to have a successful online business is to not go alone, back yourself up with like minded individuals that share the same goals as you. Join a community that will provide you with genuine support and have a good platform where you can have good step by step training and tools to start your online business on the right path of success.

  • monica karanja

    Very inspiring..

  • Satheesh Ak

    Starting a business is very easy task. On the off chance that you need to figure out how to make money on the web, you have to have great business plans. – http://gentleninja.com/blog/internet-business-ideas

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  • Akshay Amonkar

    For me its the number #7. I have many ideas but nothing that is not so common out there…..

  • Rick Ali

    Thanks for the helpful suggestions and the mental support that, I got after reading the experience of other entrepreneur….

    I am counting on all the above mentioned point, so that the business that me and my Friends are planing can be a successful. As a beginner, this is really very important to learn from others experience.

    Regards

    Rick

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