Starting an online business is tricky. People usually think that it is fairly easy to do so; after all, there are so many successful ones out there, right? But it’s actually as complicated and troublesome as opening any other kind of business.
The fact that is on the web should be daunting, not encouraging. According to Internet Live Stats, the official regulator of websites around the world (powered by WorldWideWebSize), there are almost a billion active websites in the world right this second – it will reach the billion mark, they estimate, before mid-2016. The mark had already been reached, by the way, in 2015, but a large number of electronic addresses were deactivated and therefore the number took a slight plunge.
Anyway. If you really believe in your idea, then the number won’t scare you. But you can’t just have the idea and do it; you need to have some preparation before. That’s why you should always have in mind the 10 most common mistakes when starting an online business.
Check them out:
Not having the real idea of what you’re getting into:
Starting a business, especially an online one, where there is already so much competition for human attention, is hard, frustrating and slow-moving. To make it work you will probably have to make a lot of sacrifices, take many risks and go through undeniable frustrations. Ask yourself before starting: are you willing to invest years of your life to build the business and make it successful? Will it be harder than you’re capable of handling? Will you stick to it? Overnight successes don’t exist.
Not having a concrete plan:
Big-format business plans are growing obsolete, and this is a fact; specially when referring to the startup world. You don’t need to focus that much on one in the beginning, but you absolutely need to have a plan. You need to know who you want your customers to be, what you will sell and what your public is willing to pay for your product or service.
Not foreseeing the spending rate:
It takes a good dose of optimism and positive thinking to open a business – but you can’t apply the same carefree belief in your cash flow. Truth is, most companies run out of money before making any. That’s why you have to have an incredibly well-structured financial plan, detailing how much money you’ve got now, what is your monthly spending rate and how long will it take until you run out – and, most importantly, how you will get more when push comes to shove.
Not having the courage to start:
Maybe the market is not ready for your product or service. Maybe you don’t have all the strategy figured out. Maybe the economy is too unstable. And maybe you’re telling yourself all of these things because you’re afraid. But here goes a piece of knowledge: when you think too much about the abyss, you hardly ever jump. Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Don’t put goals like “when I have 10 thousand subscribers…” or “when the market seems better prepared…” One of the most frequent regrets in entrepreneurs is that they waited too long to launch their idea, and another person profited from their slowness; ideas might happen twice, trice and multiple-ice at the same time in different parts of the world. Don’t wait.
Not caring about customer service:
Don’t be fooled by a faceless internet: the survival or premature death of your business will ultimately be the consequence of how much it affects people. They are, either representing themselves or other businesses, the ones who will use your product or service, so you have to make sure they feel welcomed and taken care of. This means being fast and efficient when resolving problems, and never disrespecting them. A good way to know if you’re doing this well is monitor review platforms and see what they say about you.
Not providing relevant information:
The About page is either the most visited or one of the top three in any kind of website. People want to know what or who they’re dealing with. So, as an online business, it’s very important that you dedicate some time to make it a really nice one. Write an interesting story, focusing on the questions: who are you? How did your business start? What’s the story behind your products? How are they made? It doesn’t need to be a huge story, just a few paragraphs are enough.
Another essential page to invest in: the Contact Us page. One of the most neglected pieces of information is the address of the company; entrepreneurs don’t always think it’s relevant to put it on the website, but it is. For some people, it’s a simple matter of trust (to feel that the company is legit); for others, it’s important so they can see whether your service applies to where they live, or to pre-calculate shipping costs and possible customs complications (if you commercialize to other countries). And never, in no circumstance, use a generic e-mail address. Invest in a proper domain name and set up proper e-mail addresses, so your customers know that you’re serious about your business – and that you’re not a scam.
Not thinking about follower rates:
Before using your service or buying your product, customers will most likely check your social media accounts and use that as a sort of trust indicator. If you have no followers or engagement, they might conclude you’re not good enough, or that there is something wrong with the work you do. What can you do, then? The idea is to invest in only one social network at a time; when you have enough followers and engagement, then you can think about others. This might also help you in the sense that you’ll get to know what works for one channel and what works for another.
Not measuring how much free service or product you’re giving away:
It’s common practice to offer your service of product for free in the beginning. You not only gain experience, but you stablish credibility too. But everything that you do for free is an expense that you have to deal with, and if you do it without keeping track of it, you can soon find yourself with unexpected debts. A possible solution for this would be to offer something useful, but low-cost -or even free- for you, like an e-book, a webinar or an online guide.
Not caring about your product or service:
It happened before. You don’t really like the product or service, but you recognize that it has the potential to be a huge success, so you invest in it – your time, your resources and your business skills. But here is the problem: if you’re not passionate about it, you won’t work in it with the determination, the unwavering stamina and the free flow of creativity that comes from loving what you’re creating. And that can be fatal – if nothing else, because if your competitor loves it, he will come on top of you all too easily. It doesn’t have to be the thing that you love the most (we all have more than one passion), but you have to love it nonetheless.
Not having a partner:
The pressure of having -and building, and then growing- a business is so great that many can’t take it. But if you’re not alone, the burden is not so big. Find a group of entrepreneurs with whom you can share your concerns, doubts and maybe even advices. Remember: no one succeeds alone. You need people to get where you want to be. Your customers are people, your suppliers are people, your partners are people. Don’t believe in the idea that you have to be alone.