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HomeEntrepreneurTop Business Tips For An Online Entrepreneur

Top Business Tips For An Online Entrepreneur

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The following business tips are pieces of my own experience, broken down into several areas: projects, strategy, team, money, and partnerships.

Business Tips – Projects

This is what you are doing, the results of your activities. Most of the time, those will be websites with various degrees of complexity. Creating, managing, and improving services is the core of your online business.

1. Business Tips – A Brilliant Idea Is Worth Nothing

I can have 100 brilliant ideas per minute. And I’m not joking. I know a guy who can have his brilliant ideas in his sleep. Guess what: he’s not an entrepreneur. An idea without action is worth nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Focus on your immediate resources to make something plausible working as fast as you can rather than waiting for something allegedly brilliant to grow by itself. It never happened and it will never happen.

2. You Sell Processes, Not Products

In the online business tips, what you are selling is not a product, nor even a service. It’s a process. You sell an entire experience, regardless of your niche. From a personal blog up to a link directory, what you are offering is not atomically identified as one single product or service but as a unique process. It is this unique combination that creates the value behind the business, not the parts.

3. If They Copy You, You’re Good

One of the most accurate proofs that you’re doing a great job, is your clone trend. If your site/product gets cloned, you are in for something. If you’re not cloned at all, something must be wrong. Many young entrepreneurs have this fear of not being copied. Being copied is the only surefire sign that you’re good at.

4. Don’t Look For Traffic, Look For Trends

One of the most present obsessions among online entrepreneurs is related to traffic. How much traffic I could generate with this project? In my opinion, traffic is overrated. At the speed of the Internet, traffic is becoming volatile, users are bombed with loads of information each hour, so rough numbers are not a reliable way to judge your product impact.

5. Business Tips – The Network Effect

If you want to launch an online business, think twice. It may be worth launching 5 online businesses at the same time and linking them to a network. Maybe your flagship idea will consume most of your focus and resources, but having 2 to 3 satellite websites/projects orbiting the main product will have a bigger impact.

6. If You Don’t Like It, It Usually Won’t Work

If you don’t like your idea, but you “feel” it will generate lots of money, usually it won’t work. It might generate lots of money if it exploits some market-uncovered niche, but without your enthusiasm fuel, it won’t be there for long. It will be extinct faster than a passion-fueled idea. A good project must give you the thrills, not the only money as empty numbers.

7. Business Tips – Fall In Love With Your Project

If you experience familiar sensations, like chills and butterflies in the stomach, whenever you’re thinking about your project, that’s a sign you’re falling in love with it. No, it’s not awkward. No, you don’t have to block those feelings. Let them express and treat your project like you would treat your beloved half. I’m not joking.

8. Business Tips – Measure, Measure, Measure

Always use all the available metrics to see where you are with your project. Don’t be fooled by your imagination nor let those wishful thinking episodes get in your way. Measure your impact. Watch your money, trends, team, partners and see what’s happening. Keep your eyes open and be ready to cut if things are not looking as you would expect. Better sooner than later.

9. Business Tips – Manage The Break-Up

Sometimes, your projects won’t work. Accept it. Even more, manage them carefully. Closing a project is a skill in itself, a skill that you’ll have to master. Each closed project may (and it should) give you resources for the next one. Just leaving debris floating around in the web universe will not make you popular, on the contrary.

10. Business Tips – Build A Community First

Your product (or process) will be useless without a backing community. It might be the next best thing since sliced bread, but if you don’t have a reasonable pack of people vouching for it by using it and promoting it every day, that product is as good as dead.

11. Be Curious

Don’t assume you know everything. Allow yourself to be curious about stuff that looks interesting or intriguing. Creating good online products (or processes) is often the result of an unstoppable curiosity about “why is this like this and not the other way around?”. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but that has nothing to do with your projects. Really.

12. Your Projects Are Your Teachers

You learn by trial and error. There are no foolproof books on how to build a successful online business. Even this list is the result of my personal experience and believe me, it isn’t foolproof at all. It may or may not work for you. And you will never know until you go out and start doing stuff.

13. Business Tips – Plan, Plan, Plan

Carefully write down every step you need for your project. Create milestones. Respect them. Try to predict any potential danger and take it into account. Planning thoroughly your projects will be the best service you can make to yourself and your team.

14. Build Discipline

You already have high goals, all you need is some discipline. The bigger your internal discipline, the higher your chances to respond well to market changes. Being disciplined won’t make the field less hectic, you’ll still be walking on very thin ice, but you’ll be able to react faster to external change.

15. Business Tips – The Excitement Stage

Each project has an exciting stage. It’s the beginning, the novelty, the thrills of making something happen. It will not be like this forever. Many entrepreneurs are abandoning projects after this initial stage, and that’s a pity. Just use the fuel you get from this enthusiasm but still walk the path when the thrill is gone.

16. The Involvement Stage

After the excitement comes the real action. This is where you start to implement the processes in your business. It’s a long and sometimes tedious interval. In my experience, the involvement is the most expensive part, in terms of time consumed, skills, and money.

17. The Measuring Stage

This is where you start drawing lines and doing the math. This is most of the time the moment you know if the investment was good or bad. It’s fundamental and you should not skip this under any circumstances. Be sure any project has a measuring stage, in which you can decide the resource allocation.

Business Tips – Strategy

You will need to do things in a certain way to maximize your chances of success. This “certain way” is what we call strategy, from the general business attitude to specific approaches.

1. Business Tips – Fail Often

Good judgment comes from experience but experience comes from bad judgment, Not entirely true, I know, but enough to make you think. Don’t be afraid to fail. Kill all your “brilliant” ideas by making them real first. 99.99% of the genial ideas don’t survive after you make them real. 99.99% is a big number. Prepare to fail for 99.99% of your time. 0.01% is worth.

2. Fast Is The New Slow

If you want a piece of the online cake you have to think super fast. If you think fast, you’re slow. Technology is evolving at such a rate that you can almost hear it growing. The adoption of the phenomenon is the fastest in the whole of humankind’s history. You’re doing business during a revolution.

3. If You Don’t Blog, You Don’t Exist

The old days of anonymous business presence on the Internet are over. You need an identity. Preferably, your own identity. The easiest way to establish, maintain, and promote an identity is having a blog. Blogging has become an internal part of the online business process, much like a domain name: without it, you don’t exist.

4. Be Informed

Stay on top of the news but filter the information. Being informed is a balanced attitude. Don’t rush to become a hype whore, praising every single “next boom” idea, but don’t get too skeptical also. Watching the trends in the online business can be a business in itself, though you need a really good filter and a cold judgment to take only what’s useful for you or your business niche.

5. Business Tips – Social Media Works

It might be overrated lately, I agree, but social media works. As an observer of the online phenomenon in the last ten years, I can tell you for sure that this IS a revolution. Much slower than it’s perceived or presented, but there is a real shift from consuming information to interacting in larger communities.

6. Business Tips – Praise Your Success

I don’t see any reason whatsoever you shouldn’t be proud of what you did. If you’re successful, let the world know. Being shy will not help you here. You’re acting on a field so crowded with information that even your own identity is difficult to persist if you don’t actively work at it.

7. Don’t Focus On The Competition

But don’t ignore it either. This business field is so crowded that you’re surely having a lot of competition. Focusing on it will most likely drain all your resources. Instead, focus on your resources, your projects, and your clients.

8. Is This Useful?

Before starting to build your project make sure you’re able to respond big, capital letters, no hesitation, out loud “YES” to that question. If you have the slightest hesitation, start the analysis over. If you build something that won’t make a difference (but it will just look good or shiny) you will lose. Your business must solve the problem. Period.

9. What Brain Real Estate Do You Own?

I usually describe branding as the real estate property you own in people’s brains. The “shoes” land is owned by Nike, the “luxury car” is owned by Ferrari, the “classy watch” is owned by Rolex, and “mobile phone” tends to be owned by Apple, lately. Almost every human concept can be defined as a real estate property in one’s brain.

10. Don’t Listen To Them

Listen to you. Don’t listen to those who are telling you you’re making a big mistake by quitting your daily job and starting a new business. You know better. They’ll praise you in a few years. So go for it.

11. Don’t Be Afraid

Yes, it’s risky. Nobody can guarantee total success. Yes, you may fail. So what? Being afraid will only amplify those possibilities. Accept that you can fail or succeed and move on. The beauty of the journey will soon make those fears fade like they never existed.

12. No-Risk It, No Biscuit

Learn how to deal with risk and how to embrace it. There is no such business with “zero” risk. If it is, it isn’t worth the trouble. The bigger the risk, the bigger the payout of the business. And the online field is one of the riskier business fields you can imagine.

13. If It Was Never Done Before, Look Twice

Most of the time, an idea nobody had until you were worth the trouble. But if nobody implemented it so far, there must also be a reason. The “first of its kind” ideas are not always a sure win, look twice. This is not meant to inhibit your creativity, but to ground you more and avoid seeking novelty just for the sake of it.

14. When It’s Cooking, It’s Cooking

If your idea is starting to take off, don’t stop. You may be surprised how high you can go. Don’t just stop when your initial goal has been met. More often than you think, this initial success is only the gate to something bigger than you ever imagined. Don’t let yourself out of this bigger picture by remaining stuck in an initial, comfy, small success.

15. Seek For Advice

You don’t know anything. Fortunately. Because if you would know everything you’ll miss all that thrill of discovering the unknown. Just ask for advice when in trouble, don’t assume you know everything. Or do an online search. Chances are that somebody had the same problem before and the answer is out there.

16. Do Whatever It Takes

if you have to convince 100 people to make your project alive, do it. If you have to walk 1000 miles, do it. Do whatever it takes to make your idea real. Don’t think: “But this is too hard”. It isn’t. It’s your idea and you’ll be so happy when you’re going to see it live. So, do whatever it takes for that.

17. Trust Your Intuition

There are no schools for that, so it cannot be learned. Intuition is that instant light shed on a subject only for a split second, just enough for you to think it was there. Things are different in that light. Whenever you see it, trust it. Intuition can often draw the line between a “correct” entrepreneur and a brilliant one.

18. Practice Courage

This one can be learned, so do your best to learn it. Courage means doing stuff regardless of the context. Act with all your power toward making things happen. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to be afraid from time to time, it means you’re going to pursue your goal regardless of those fears.

19. Maintain Enthusiasm

This one can also be learned. If courage is the action, enthusiasm is the fuel for that action. Make sure you always have enough of that fuel. Seal your doors in such a way that depression will never make an entrance. In my opinion, enthusiasm is an asset bigger than any financial support you can get.

20. Do It For Yourself

Entrepreneurship is a fantastic personal development tool. Regardless of the outcome of your business, you will learn tremendously from this. Do it for yourself, not for the money (although money is pretty good, also). Whatever you do, keep in mind that there aren’t failures or successes, there are only results.

21. Be Self Sustainable Before Asking For Money

Going around and asking for funding while you’re still on negative cash flow will create more harm than good. At this early stage – which is most of the time unavoidable – all the funding you can find is either angel investors, or the 3 “F”: family, friends, and fools. I gladly recommend the 3 “F” anytime, an angel will put a lot of pressure on your development and strategy. Once you have a constant, positive cash flow, go out and shout for funding, and they’ll line up at your door office.

22. Balance Your Expectations With The Market Status

When establishing strategic (and financial) goals pay attention to the market conditions. Always balance your ambitions and expectations with real numbers from the market. If you don’t do that you’ll end up either aiming unrealistically high or going under your true potential.

23. Business Tips – Brand Yourself

In the online field, more than in any other I know, personal branding is compulsory. And by that, I mean unavoidable. Your online presence will work while you’re asleep, while you’re on holiday, while you’re working hard on a new secret feature. Maintaining a solid, persistent online presence is the key ingredient to successful personal branding.

24. Watch For Your Break Even

But don’t consider it a success in itself. That’s what a business has to do in the first place: pay the money invested in it. A common strategy mistake is to slow down after the break-even, considering that the simple fact of reaching it will further endorse the business. On the contrary, it’s only after the break-even that you’ll see how much your project is worth in terms of profit.

25. Network, Network, Network

Go out and meet new people. Clearly state your expertise and ask the same from your peers. Let them know why you’re doing business and how. Join professional organizations and attend informal meetings. There is no such thing as an upper limit to your connections in the online field.

26. Don’t Fall Into The Productivity Trap

Sometimes you get so caught in a productivity trap that you lose sight of the long-term goals. You work so hard and so organized that you can’t see where you’re heading anymore. If you reach this level, it’s time for you to hire a manager. You’re an entrepreneur, you have to see the road and lead your people there.

27. Don’t Let It Eat You

A business is just a business, not your life. Took me years to understand that. Too much of implication in your own business is not good. At some point, you’ll be burned out. Be sure to build some fences between your private life and your professional life.

28. Boredom Is Bankruptcy

If you get bored with your business it’s time to get out of it. Quick. Out of any imaginable dangers of a business, I cannot think of one more powerful than boredom. The second you feel you get bored, do whatever you can to leave it. Otherwise, you’ll end up having the worst job ever: being a bored employee (you) working for a bored boss (you again).

Business Tips – Team

Business tips

You can’t make it only by yourself. Period. Especially in the online field when the skill distribution is so wide and competencies are so different. Creating a solid, articulated team around your projects is usually halfway through success.

1. Business Tips – Hire For Attitude, Train For Skills

The first thing you should spot on a potential employee is the attitude. Then comes skills. The reason for that is: that attitude is really hard to change, but skills are easy to acquire. Look for a specific attitude, and then do your best to teach them the required skills.

2. Surround Yourself With Better Skilled People Than You

Another business tips, If you are going to build something from scratch don’t do everything by yourself, just because “you know better”. You may know where you want to go, but others know how to get you there. Don’t assume you know better, because you don’t. Accept that others may have a better answer and find them.

3. Anyone Can Fail Once, But Nobody Can Repeat The Same Mistake

One of the best rules for human resources I ever had. Everybody is entitled to make a mistake. Even more, as long as they aren’t repeating the same mistake. Making mistakes is one of the safest sources of learning. Repeating the same mistake is a sign that the learning didn’t occur.

4. Business Tips – Ask For Feed-Back

Don’t expect your employees to know everything that has to be done, especially in the early days of a new business. There’s a lot of unknown floating around and they don’t always know exactly what you expect from them. Make a habit of asking for feedback. Ask questions. Pay attention to the answers. They’re the people who are building your business, make sure they know how to do it.

5. Don’t Expect Respect If You Don’t Show It

Treating your employees like resources is not productive. They may have goals and milestones, but they’re human beings, just like you and they have human beings problems, just like you. Don’t expect respect if you don’t show it first. Of course, they may work without respecting you, that’s for sure, especially if they work because they are afraid of you.

6. You Have More Employees Than You Think

In the online business, more than in any other type of business, your clients often become your employees. Online businesses are most of the time services and communities centered around those services.

7. Accept That Some Of Your Employees May Have Bigger Salaries Than You

Another common mistake of young entrepreneurs is to consider their founder role as enough to get them the biggest salary in the company. The salary has nothing to do with that. It’s a reward for the skills invested in the company. You should be happy when you find people capable of providing you with more skills than you can provide.

8. It’s a Rental, Not Your Property

When you’re getting employees, be sure you understand that you’re renting their skills and time, you’re not owning them. At some point, they will find some other guy who’s offering something better than you, and they’ll leave. It’s natural. Don’t even dare to think your employees are your sole property, even if you trained and helped them. All people are equally free.

9. Business Tips – Challenge Your Team

Change goals often. Insert new metrics. Create evaluation programs. Don’t let your employees get bored. Challenge them with new ideas, projects, or internal programs. You may be offering a great long-term package, a great salary, and a comfortable working environment, but if you don’t properly challenge your employees, they’ll simply get bored. Boredom is not good for business.

10. Unplug Them From Time To Time

Everyone needs a break every once in a while. Make sure you create enough escape valves in your working environment. Also, make sure to let them know about that. Especially in the early stages of a business, when the workload is bigger than you know, offering some unexpected free time gifts will have surprisingly productive effects.

11. Blend Their Responsibilities

This may go against what you know about specialization, but I had good results with it, at least at the experimental level. Make them switch roles (if they have enough skills for that, of course). create special events in which the managers are employees or the software architect will have to take care of the company’s hardware.

12. Give Up Reading CVs – Meet People

I gave up reading CVs after the first 5-6 years and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Instead, I started to go out, meet new people, and attend professional events. When I was hiring something, usually it was by word of mouth. CVs are good, but they can only tell you something about one person’s skills, you have to “read” the man alive to understand his attitude.

Business Tips – Money

From how to monetize your services, up to how to budget your expenses, money is the fundamental resource in any company. Especially in the online field, money is extremely important: the field is so volatile that you will need a lot of money skills to keep it stable.

1. Investors and angels

An investor will most likely buy your clients, contracts, and market share. You will provide support for a limited time and then you’ll be out. In exchange, you’ll get money. It may take 1 to 3 years, and you’re out. An angel will most likely buy your brains and work power for several years.

2. Cash-flow Is King

Keep a good eye on your money, because in the online field, more than any other business area, budgets are volatile. They can disappear in a second. There is tremendous pressure on your money from any possible direction you can imagine. Watching carefully your cash flow and doing whatever it takes to remain on top of it is the cornerstone of a successful online business.

3. Money Is Hot

Don’t let your money pile, move it around, buy more resources, or start new projects but don’t let it sit. The temptation of accumulating money for “the bad days” is so high, especially because the field is so unstable. But money is hot and if you stay too much in direct contact, it will burn you.

4. Services Are The New Ads

If you want to monetize your project go for services, not ads. Ads are deprecated. While they will still bring some cash in for a long time, the performance versus cost metric is rapidly decreasing. Ads take too much space, their content is out of your control and the generated revenue is lower and lower.

5. Delegate Your Money Technicalities To A Professional

Hire a good accountant and make sure you understand what he tells you. Your role is to grow a business not to fill in tax papers or invoices. Because money is one of the most precious resources in a business, many entrepreneurs are trying to manage them directly.

6. Shoot For Long Term Deals

Sacrifice some of the immediate profits for long-term relationships with your clients. Especially in the early stages of a business, finding and maintaining a pool of stable clients is crucial. Having a constant, predictable cash flow is a fantastic relief when you have to build a whole new project from scratch.

7. Business Tips – Don’t Be Cheap

Doing an online business is not cheap. At all. It might be easier to do some of the things you do in real life on the Internet, but it won’t be cheaper than in real life. Buy the best servers you can afford, the best laptops for your employees, and the best software tools you can find.

8. The Two And A Half Rule

This was one of the most precious budgeting rules I ever learned while I was doing online business. Here’s how it works. First of all, be generous when you budget your project. Put slightly more money than you need in every area (development, hardware, etc). Once you reach a satisfying total, multiply it by two.

9. Be Prepared To Lose

Some projects will work, some not. You will lose money at some point. Be prepared, it’s part of the game. If it’s not working, it’s not working. Don’t get stuck in patterns like: “I have to recover my loss”, or “Let’s find who’s responsible for that, I want my money back”. You’re responsible.

10. Learn To Write, Understand And Sign Contracts

In Business Tips Trust is even better than the contracts, I agree, but before you reach the trust level, make sure you have your butt covered. Learning to understand contracts is also useful to know what are you offering and what are you getting.

11. Authority Is The New Currency

By that, I understand that you won’t always be able to monetize some of your projects, despite their obvious success. In this case, what you are getting back in exchange for the broadcast value is called authority. It’s much more precious than money because it’s much more solvable than money.

12. Money Is A Resource, Not A Goal

Too often money is seen as a goal. Everybody asks you: “How much money do you make?”. In my experience, when seeing money as a goal, you have a hard time working with it. When you look at it as a resource for building more value, it becomes much more manageable. It’s a resource, like any other one: time, people, tools.

Business Tips – Partnerships

This is about your partnerships both as an investor and at the company level. Partners are great motivators and more than often great businesses are started and made popular by a successful partnership.

1. Business Tips – Assess The Big Picture

In business tips Partnerships are based on trust. No trust, no partnership. Quite difficult to assess, because what you may perceive as a lack of honesty or deception is most of the time the result of incidental misunderstandings.

2. Business Tips – What You Get Is What You Give

Don’t expect partnerships to become rescue vessels for you. In a partnership, there must be an equal amount of value provided by each part. Don’t hunt for partnerships as a substitute for your work, or as safety nets when you feel you will fall.

3. Business Tips – Look For Alternate Skills

When building a partnership, look for something you don’t have. People often forget this simple rule and start searching for “like-minded” people. They are good to mastermind, and to brainstorm, but a partnership must cover a part of your business tips or process you don’t handle directly.

4. Business Tips – Keep It Alive

A partnership is like any other relationship. It needs a sparkle from time to time to keep it alive. Partnerships are made by humans and maintained by humans. Be sure to check in every once in a while and see if everything is ok. You’ll be surprised how many partnerships ended because of a simple, yet so often neglected cause like… boredom.

5. Business Tips – The Similar Size Principle

If you are small and partner with the big guys, prepare for war. If you are big, and small guys want to partner with you, you’ll want to eat them alive, at some point. This is how things work and size does matter. More often you’ll be wearing the small guy clothes, trying to make your way up to the giants.

6. “No” Is Still A Word In The Dictionary

Learn how to say “no” to your partners. Don’t expect them to be always in line with what you think. Make your point clearly but keep in mind you’ll still need them. Saying “no”, generally speaking, is an art in itself, and one must master this art before entering any serious partnerships.

7. Business Tips – Who’s Carrying Who?

At some point, any partnership will become obsolete. Be very careful who’s carrying who. If a partnership is slowly becoming a burden instead of a competitive advantage just go away. Do it in a transparent yet pretty firm way.

8. Business Tips – Each Partnership Has A Goal

If you start a new partnership just because it’s cool or you feel the need to have some company, better don’t. Each partnership must have a clear goal to succeed. It’s very easy for any of the parts to hijack the resources of the partnerships later on if the direction is unclear.

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