In the age of the internet and social media, it seems as if becoming an entrepreneur is the new popular thing to do. 25 years ago, becoming an entrepreneur was not a popular career choice. In fact, starting your own business was frowned upon. Young people were told they had to graduate from college and get a good job to become successful. Entrepreneurship was considered risky and looked down upon and looked at by many like a scheme to make money fast. However, times have changed and things are a lot different then they were in the ’80s and ’90s.
Thanks to the new digital era we live in, entrepreneurship has a new reputation. It seems as if in the last few years, everyone wants to create a side hustle, become an influencer, become and coach, or go into business for themselves. But for people like me, entrepreneurship isn’t just a passing fad to use as a flex on the ‘gram. For us, entrepreneurship is engrained in our DNA and it’s the only career path that makes sense.
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. As a young girl, I wrote and sold my own books and stationery to make money. As a teenager, I learned website coding and created my first websites and in middle school. I sat at my computer for hours at a time in the age of dial-up internet, so you know I was fully committed.
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. Whatever your reason for becoming an online entrepreneur, I want you to understand that creating something from nothing is not going to come easy, and it’s not going to become successful overnight. You are going to have to do the work – and do it often and consistently.
If your mind is made up and you know you have what it takes, I would first as you to first examine your motives behind wanting to do this. Running an online business is not easy, but you can become successful if you are willing to put in the time and energy to make your vision come to life. If you want to create an online business just to impress the people around you, you aren’t going to make it.
Whatever your reason, I applaud you. Owning your own business, or becoming an entrepreneur is a very admirable path to take in my eyes. Wanting to be an entrepreneur tells the world that you are not afraid to step out in faith and go against the grain. If you do what it takes, one day you will become your own boss and play by your own rules.
In my ten year 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. When you run multiple online companies, you have to become a woman of many hats. There is no specific blueprint to becoming successful online, so you will have to do what works for you and overcome all the obstacles along the way.
Of all the job titles 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. No business certificate, degrees, grant, investments, or scholarships are going to do the work that it takes to get you out there. The internet is a noisy place, and if you want to make it in online business you are going to have to have the discipline to do the work.
I had to have the discipline to learn new things and keep going when things weren’t working. I had to practice discipline each time I sat down to create something new and finish the project I started. I had to exercise discipline to step out of my comfort zone to try new things and meet new people.
When I first started out, 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. Whenever someone asks me a business question, my natural response to them is “have you tried to Google the answer?”
Over the past ten years, I have read hundreds of books, watched hundreds of tutorials, and spent many countless nights practicing, tweaking, and starting over. If you don’t know the answer, you are going to have to search for it. When you are first starting out, research and Google will be your best friends.
After years of struggling to get it right, 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. Are you ready and willing to do what it takes to pursue your dreams?
1. Be careful who you share your dreams and ideas with. Never share your ideas with those who only have negative words to say about you or your business. 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 about what is going on. Share your idea with your spouse, children, or other or loved ones, but don’t place unfair expectations on them. Although they may encourage you along the way, don’t expect your friends and family to become your customers – it is not fair to you or them.
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 and producing quality work to grow your business.
3. Get your name out there early. A popular misconception people have about online business 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 new clients and customers is to start promoting yourself from Day 1. When you meet new people, introduce yourself as a business owner.
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:
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. Almost 10 years later because of the impact of social media and the internet, there are thousands of more free advertising sites you can use to promotes 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, and ask them to share. 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 your online business is new, 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.
Much success to you in your endeavors!