Having the freedom to run an online business is like no other opportunity, and it is fairly new one at that. My parents never had this option, and even 10 years ago this wasn’t possible. Now if you have a good idea, you can put it online, see how the market responds. By measuring results you can then make improvements – fast. For me, I’ve had websites for years, and decided to get serious about 4 years ago. I’ve learned a lot as my business grew, and applied the experience and lessons to MarketingProfessor.com (which is 1 year old this month). However, the learning doesn’t end with a new venture, rather, it begins (again).
This 4 part series allows me to pass along some lessons learned in serving readers over the last year. It spans three categories, Business Lessons, Technology Lessons, and Social Media Lessons. Building on part 1 today we going to continue with business lessons, some of these ideas were in place out of the gate, however as with many things in business, they must be continually maintained and nurtured over time.
Five: Don’t compromise. Remind yourself why you went into business.
This touches many areas. While it is important to be flexible and make adjustments for changing markets and technologies, don’t compromise the fundamentals. Why are you in business, or why are you going into business? For me, I wanted to work from home, as this affords me freedoms I wouldn’t have working for someone else. Last week, I enjoyed time with my family at the Denver Zoo for ‘free day’. Since I don’t normally take business hours off, they were surprised to have me along, I told them, “if working from home doesn’t offer these types of freedoms why do it?” It’s important to remember why you went in to business, and stick to your guns, no compromise.
Six: Watch Finances Closely – Use the Right Tools
Often, startups are generally not profitable out of the gate (unless it is prof services like consulting), but the early period of getting things rolling and building financial momentum is key. I’m not a financial guru, in fact I could easily be lumped in the group of do it now pay for it later business owners, but that is a recipe for heartache and heartburn in any economic climate. I got some great advice from Anita Campbell (no relation) over at SmallBizTrends.com when it comes to finances. Watch spending closely, measure, and know your most profitable activities.
Practical Note: One of the best things I did was move to Quickbooks online. All my transactions download from bank accounts nightly, and has learned over time where things go (accounts/classifications, etc.). The system is also setup so it emails me monthly financial reports. This gives me the information needed to keep the pulse of financial activity in the business. Prior to this, keeping up with the books was a never ending battle, and I didn’t have reliable reports to make decisions in the business as I’d liked. I also use a product that allows me to monitor nearly all my affiliate marketing and pay per click activities up to the hour (StatsJunky Review here). Both of these tools have been huge for understanding financial health of the business. Bottom-line, keep a close eye on your bottom-line.
Seven: Manage Time Wisely
There is so much information out there, and so often these can serve as distractions. With all to be learned about social media, it can be a major time trap, and prevent marketers from doing work that pays the bills, or implementing strategies to leverage these powerful social sites to build traffic, email subscribers, and profits. John Reese speaks of this social media time suck in his latest report.
Take control, have a list of objectives prepared in advance of your day (I put these in my business journal) and prioritize them. I use A, B, and C for task rankings, A=Must get Done today, B=Should get done today, if not becomes an ‘A’ tomorrow, and C=Do if you have completed As and Bs, otherwise finish within the next 3-5 business days.
Then use a timer to challenge yourself to get tasks done in a certain amount of minutes.
This is covered fairly well along with 20+ other points in the Marketers FAQ report (subscribers get this, you got yours? :-).
A Word About Outsourcing: Outsourcing, done right, can be a huge timesaver. Build relationships with good outsourcers. Part of getting more done, might include hiring some to help you along the way. Most online businesses starting out don’t have a lot of startup capital, I can identify (and probably spent too much in the beginning). Yet, outsourcing key tasks was essential to moving things forward quickly here. For me, I hired character first, skill second. Something I learned from Andy Jenkins, when evaluating a candidate, ask questions not only to uncover their expertise, but also to reveal their judgement. After hiring, take care of them, pay promptly, and send extra if they went the extra mile. I have an excellent blog technician, who bends over backwards for me. I believe this is the fruit of proper evaluation, and building good rapport during his time working for me.
It’s your turn. What have been some of the more valuable business lessons you’ve learned in the last year marketing online? Making tough decisions? Technology issues? Financial decisions? What would you like to see in the year ahead?
Photo’s Thanks to: way2go, wrhowell