10 Things You Need to Know Before Starting an Online Business

a laptop plant and coffee mug on top of a table

Written by

Seren Nurgun

Doing SEO for online and local businesses since 2021, she has generated over 278K clicks from Google.

So you want to start an online business? Congrats! Even setting that intention is something millions of aspiring entrepreneurs unfortunately never do.

As a budding entrepreneur, you’re probably voraciously consuming advice and information online. That’s totally normal at this stage. You care so much about your dreams and are so friggin’ excited for this new journey that the desire for time and financial freedom is worth spending hours and hours pursuing. I totally get it!

After three years of running an online business, it’s safe to say your girl has had major ups and downs (not matter how much I googled and learned at the beginning of my entrepreneurship journey). Lots of the downs were unexpected yet avoidable. Things new entrepreneurs can definitely learn from so they don’t make the same mistakes. So let’s dive into the things you need to know as a brand new entrepreneur. Let’s help set you up for success!

01) They Actually Don’t Come When You Build It

Ever heard the phrase, “build it and they’ll come”? Well, some ‘gurus’ in the online business space have used this sentiment for years to promote their courses and programs that teach people how to start an online venture.

That’s probably why a lot of new entrepreneurs go into online business and entrepreneurship expecting the big bucks as early as six months into it.

But that only happens for like 0.001% of new entrepreneurs.

The reality for the other 99.999% is you have to build it, prove you know what you’re talking about, and then market the bananas out of it to get your initial clients or customers. Then you need to deliver a stellar experience and product/service to continue making sales. And on, and on, and on.

That’s how it works for the overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs, and this might be tough love (love ya! you can do it!), but the sooner you take a more proactive approach to your marketing, the more good buzz you’ll generate in both the short and long-term.

02) Join Like-Minded Communities Whenever You Can

HOT TAKE: You’re NOT the average of the five people you surround yourself with.

That’s just a made-up claim by a motivational speaker and self-help ‘guru’. And while the ‘five people’ thing is nonsense, the underlying meaning is actually true (according to scientific research).

At least three different studies have shown that our larger network of friends and acquaintances is what matters and shapes us (not only out beliefs and thoughts, but also our actions and habits).

With data spanning decades, the studies found that people were more likely to gain weight, stop smoking cigarettes, and be happier when their friends or friends of friends gained weight, stopped smoking, or exhibited happiness, respectively.

You’re not the average of the five people you surround yourself with – you’re the average of basically everyone you surround yourself with.

So what’s that mean for you?

It means if you don’t have a strong support system or aren’t already in a network of people who are driven, passionate, or entrepreneurial, then you’ll want to immerse yourself in online (or in-person) groups of like-minded people.

By linking up with people who have similar interests and shared goals, you’ll be in their entrepreneurial energy, see their successes and failures (which’ll make your failures feel less significant), and be able to bounce ideas around.

Whether it’s a group you have to pay to get into (like a mastermind or membership) or a group that’s totally free (like a Facebook group), be sure to join at least five in total. No more than that though because then it gets hard and exhausting to keep up with them all (speaking from personal experience).

Here are three free online business communities you can join today:

03) Have a Plan for When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Pretty much no one likes to prepare for rough or slow periods in business, but believe me when I tell you a plan for what to do will make all the difference!

Rough patches will definitely happen. They’re inevitable. At one point or another, either sales will slow, your emails will get opened less, or your content on a social media platform won’t hit as hard as it used to.

Instead of feeling down and not sure what you need to do to get out of the slump, you’ll feel much better trusting and implementing your rough patch plan.

It could include things like:

  • Audit your content strategy to find weaknesses
  • Do more market research to understand your ideal clients or customers better
  • Continue to regularly show up on social media
  • Audit your sales strategy to uncover where you’re leaking clients or customers
  • Book an intensive with a business consultant
  • Get your marketing strategy analyzed and upgraded with a marketing strategist
  • Book an interview on a podcast
  • Look into potential partnerships or collaborations

Just remember: those sparkly 7-figure businesses weren’t built in a day or built effortlessly. If they started by investing thousands of dollars, success probably came easier. If they didn’t, then I’m sure they spent an obscene amount of time figuring things out.

While entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster (more like the biggest bad boy at Six Flags), it’s worth it if you really want it. Life is short. Trust the process. Trust yourself, more importantly.

04) Don’t Default to Working 9-5 Weeks

If you’re ditching the 9-5 life for entrepreneurship, it’s super easy and comfortable to stay in the 9-5 way of working mindset.

That mindset might actually be working against you if you end up forcing yourself to be productive (which can ultimately hurt the quality of your work) or if you actually work better before 9am or after 5pm.

But one of the most-loved benefits of having your own business is the flexibility and freedom!

You can take Wednesdays off or only work in the mornings if you wanted to. You can really shape your schedule however you want! You’re your own boss!

When I first started SweetSea Digital, I thought the 9-5 schedule was the best because I had come from that world (as many of us do).

Later on, after I saw how others did 4-day work weeks or took vacations whenever they wanted, it finally dawned on me that I had that flexibility, too.

I don’t take Fridays off or anything, but I do pay attention to my energy levels so that if I’m full of energy and itching to work, I listen and get down to business. Or if I’m super tired or just don’t have any energy to focus, I listen to my body and get outside, rest, or try to take my mind off of business things so that when I return I’m rearing to go.

Want to know the real secret to high productivity? The one you rarely hear?

It all comes down to prioritization and joy. Prioritizing those 10K tasks plus working on things that bring you joy.

As the boss of your own schedule, it’s definitely tough to balance it with everything you want to do and have to do as an adult. That’s why I recommend time-blocking and filling in your work schedule around your most important to-dos like personal hobbies, outside time, and family time (i.e. prioritizing what matters the most first). If you’re the kind of person who needs more rigidity, try out Toggl.

That way, you’re doing what needs to get done while also making space for the still important but medium-priority things.

05) Consistency + Quality = Results

This one’s a biggie! Before you start an online business, know that the majority of people currently in your shoes struggle to stay consistent when marketing online and struggle to deliver a quality experience through their product or service, consistently.

Now, staying consistent doesn’t mean showing up every single day. It means showing up when it matters, at whatever frequency you have the capacity to show up.

Can you only post on Instagram once a week? Great, do that and make it absolutely awesome. Can you only write one email to your email subscribers a month? No worries, it’s better that they hear from you once a month than not at all.

Anything is better than radio silence when you’re marketing your online business.

And when it comes to delivering a seamless, positive experience to your clients or customers, that’s a must. Why? Well, one study reported that 86% of customers in the U.S. said they stopped doing business with a company because of a bad experience.

You know it yourself: if that phone company is giving you the runaround, you won’t want to keep giving them your hard-earned money or valuable time, especially when there are plenty of competitors offering a better experience.

That’s why improving your business’s client or customer experience should be one of your main focuses just starting out. If you don’t have testimonials or reviews yet, your client/customer experience needs to be super positive so you can be known as a business that everyone loves working with. That’s step one of building a great reputation.

06) Do Your Research Before Investing Big Bucks

“If you manifest 6-figures, it’ll happen.”

“You need this life-changing program.”

“You won’t be successful if you don’t invest with me today.”

These are just a sample of absolutely wild statements you’ve probably already seen in the online business space – and if you haven’t seen them, you will!

As a newbie in this space, it’s easy to get dazzled and distracted by everything you see on social media. But business influencers and celebpreneurs purposefully promise you the treasure at the other end of the rainbow so they can continue to claim 50K months.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen a ton of horror stories of people not getting what they thought they paid for and ending up disappointed with thousands less in their bank.

To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, be sure to thoroughly research the person and their business! Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they have actual experience doing the thing they’re selling to you? Like if they’re selling a course on how to do email marketing, go through their own email marketing sequence and see if it’s actually legit.
  • Are they trying to squeeze out every penny from buyers? If they charge excessively more for payment plans than the pay-in-full option, use charm pricing, and make big, outlandish claims or promises, those are all strong yellow flags.
  • Do they treat their clients or customers more as numbers? Their group program is more than 50 people?! You can kiss any quality 1:1 attention goodbye. Or if they send you occasional DMs like they’re just going down their lead tracker list.
  • When you inquire, do they rush to get you on a call? I recently experienced this after asking a service provider for their prices (which weren’t on their website), and they didn’t answer my inquiry question at all – it was an instant turn-off. I ended up choosing another service provider who gave me the information I asked for and the space to think about it.

07) Read, Read, Read, and Read Some More

You don’t know what you don’t know.

That might feel overwhelming, but hold on – you only need to learn how to do what’s in front of you. Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew (this is the last saying I’ll drop, promise).

In the digital age, there’s a Mt. Everest-sized amount of information freely available on the internet. And if you ask any successful entrepreneur, they’ll say resourcefulness is a quality every entrepreneur needs.

When you’re just starting out, expect to spend a good amount of time learning how to do fundamental things.

Or if you’re coming from a corporate 9-5 in marketing and already know the basics, you’ll still want to up-level your knowledge by reading good information from good people.

In all honesty, business and marketing books are GOLD MINES of valuable information that people before you have learned through decades of experience and put together for easy consumption.

Not sure which books to start with?



08) Start Marketing on One Short-Term & One Long-Term Platform

When you’re ready to start marketing your products or services, the real challenge is consistently getting your message in front of the right people.

You see the successful online businesses on every single social media platform, pumping out content every day, and you think that’s what you should do, too.

But if you’re a solopreneur, that’s the fast track to burnoutville. There’s just no way you can sustainably post content everywhere WHILE doing everything else in your business.

Those big online businesses have entire teams and the resources to strategize, plan, design, write, and publish content every day. There’s just no comparison between you, the solopreneur, and those successful online businesses with teams. So try not to spend any more time comparing yourself to them! I know it’s easier said than done, but they started way back when just as short-staffed as you are now.

Instead of trying to be everywhere, I recommend choosing one short-term and one long-term marketing platform. This way, you’re not spreading yourself thin but you’re still setting up two good sources of traffic (where one can get you buyers now and the other can get you buyers in the future). It’s ideal to build on at least two platforms just in case something bad happens to one of them that’s outside your control (like algorithm changes).

Short-Term Platforms:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter/X
  • TikTok
  • LinkedIn

Long-Term Platforms:

  • Blogging with SEO
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Podcasting

Now, how do you choose your short and long-term platforms?

It’d be easier to just say Instagram and Pinterest or TikTok and Blogging with SEO, but it honestly depends on: where your ideal clients and customers hang out, your comfort level using each platform, what types of content you want to create, and where you can consistently see yourself showing up.

PRO TIP: If you enjoy writing and aren’t a fan of recording yourself, then LinkedIn and Blogging with SEO would be better suited for you. But if writing isn’t where you shine, then TikTok and YouTube might be the right platforms for you to get started on.

If you’re leaning towards blogging with SEO, you’ll want to grab the FREE Salt Your SEO: 5 Steps to Get Set Up For Growth guide to get started.

09) Make Business Friends, Form Partnerships, & Network A TON

Even before launching your online business, try to be social on social media and make connections with other online business owners. Now, that doesn’t mean DM a bunch of people the same boring question (and I say this because a lot of people do this on social media). That doesn’t work or get you anywhere worth going.

What you’ll want to do is actually find common interests with people that you can chat about. No mention of selling them anything. No asking market research-style questions (i.e. when did you start your business, what are you currently struggling with, etc.).

The not-so-secret secret: genuinely get to know people and be yourself!

Be sure to also connect with people who offer complementary products or services as you. So if either of you ever want to down the line, it’s a lot easier then to form strategic business partnerships.

The more connections you build, the bigger your network will grow and that network will be valuable for you for years to come.

10) Believe in Yourself No Matter What

I’m not Hawaiian, but this is the big kahuna.

It may be cliché, but nothing will meaningfully move forward if you don’t believe in yourself at your core.

If you struggle with imposter syndrome or self-doubt, that happens even to the best of us. Feel your feelings. By all means, please sit with them and journal them out. But the key is to not let them stop you from doing the things you know you should be doing if you ever want to achieve your dreams.

Whether your next step is DIYing your logo, creating a post for social media, or fleshing out your products or services, take baby steps. You might feel that resistance, the inner you trying to keep you safe and comfortable, but growth (and especially your business’s growth) happens outside of comfort zones.

When things feel hard, always come back to why you’re doing this. Is it time and financial freedom? More quality time with your family? The flexibility to travel and work remotely?

Whatever it is, that’s your north star. Hold onto it tight. And don’t forget to believe in yourself no matter what! You can do this! Even if you’re struggling with self-belief, know that there’s someone who does believe in you: me.


Is it too late to start an online business?

No, it’s never too late to start an online business. The modern internet is only about 40 years old and there’s no way every market, vertical, and niche has too much supply. Every year, new markets are created and new opportunities emerge. So if you’re starting an online business soon, you’re still ahead of millions of entrepreneurs who will come after you.

What kind of online business should I start?

This is such a loaded question – it depends on so many factors! Do you have the resources and time to invest in starting an ecommerce business? Do you have a high-demand skill (or one you can learn) that you can offer to people looking to outsource for that skill? Or you can learn social media ads and try to start dropshipping. There are so many possibilities!

Here’s an exercise that’ll help if you’re stuck:

  1. List your top 5 business ideas on the left side of a piece of paper and at the top going to the right list out ‘Ease’, ‘Cost to Start’, and ‘Income Potential’.
  2. For your first biz idea, write down a score under the ‘Ease’ column between 1 and 5 (from very hard to very easy) and do that for all your biz ideas.
  3. Then move to the next column ‘Cost to Start’ and write down a score between 1 and 5 (this time, from high cost to low cost) for each idea.
  4. Then go to the next column ‘Income Potential’ and write down a score between 1 and 5 (from low potential to high potential) for each idea.
  5. When you’re all done writing down the scores, open up your phone’s calculator and add up the scores for each biz idea. So if idea #1 got 3, 2, and 4, the total would be 9.
  6. The biz idea with the highest score is the one you should start!

How likely is it to make a full-time income from an online business?

Hold on, I’m going to be brutally honest (because we keep it real around here). A whopping HALF of small businesses fail within their first five years. That’s a wild statistic! It shows just how difficult it is to start and grow a successful business that lasts for years.

Given that statistic, the odds are against you. Most people don’t succeed. But those who do wouldn’t give it up for anything.

So while it’s technically unlikely to make a full-time income from your own business, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible or that you (yep, YOU!) can’t figure it out one step at a time. You CAN do it! Remember, we’re believing in ourselves no matter what over here. Your dreams are worth it.

Feb 11, 2024


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