Even More Online Business Pitfalls
4: Not Separating Yourself from the Business
When you're a worker bee for someone else's company, it's easy to tell the difference between your work life and your personal life — one happens in the office, the other typically happens everywhere else and rarely do the twain meet. But if you're starting a company on your own, especially an online one, you might soon lose all distinction between your two worlds. Chances are you're working from home and everything's getting all tangled up. Some people are perfectly happy with their personal and professional lives being one and the same, but it's not healthy for most of us.
Regardless of whether or not you're comfortable living your life with these blurred boundaries, some things should not be intermingled. You need to set hard-and-fast rules for certain things like finances. We hope we don't have to tell you that you absolutely need to have separate bank and credit-card accounts for personal and company use. Combining them is disastrous from an accounting standpoint and could also get you into legal trouble down the road.
Here's another non-negotiable action: Separate your e-mail and social media accounts. Post only company news on your business accounts and say nothing at all about business on your personal feeds. This will help with brand identity, organization — and keeping your sanity.
3: Ignoring or Mishandling Social Media
Just as you obviously can't have an online business without a website, you can no longer be a legitimate contender without a social media presence. You don't have to be on every platform, but it's the best marketing tool out there today — ignoring it basically means losing business.
But hang on a second — you shouldn't just throw yourself into social media willy-nilly, especially if you don't have much experience with it. You don't have to be on every platform, either. Do your research and figure out which sites suit your company and your personal style best. If you're not selling a physical product, for example, you might not need to be on Instagram. If you're not the best at witty remarks, Twitter could be a no-go for you. If you're a social-media newbie, observe for a while before you jump in. Start following your competitors and the leaders in your industry and then throw your hat into the ring when you're ready. At the very least, start a Facebook page for your business — it's a guaranteed audience-builder, and your customers will appreciate the effort.
Above all, remember to watch what you say on social media. You're there not only to interact with customers and gain new ones, but to build your brand. Everything you post should be brand-appropriate. Never get into flame wars or arguments — if you need to settle a dispute, take it to e-mail or offline.
2: Not Scaling Properly
Expansion is yet another aspect of online business that can be slightly more difficult than with a traditional model. With a physical location like a store or restaurant, it's easier to tell when you've outgrown your space, when you need more staff or when you've saturated the local market and it's time to expand. But it's a different story when you're building a software product, your employees work from home all over the world, and your market is basically unlimited. The temptation can be to expand as quickly as possible and write yourself one of those crazy overnight online success stories we always hear about. But that's almost never a good idea. Before you expand, have a solid plan.
Patience is key when it comes to scaling. Doing it too quickly could seriously and irrevocably screw up your whole company — corporate structure, operations systems, user experience, you name it. Not to mention that you'll be totally unattractive to investors. So even though your competitors might have just simultaneously expanded into 38 markets, do your research and control the pace.
1: Trying to Do Everything Yourself
Starting a business can be an all-consuming task. Your business is your baby, and you have to work around the clock to keep it alive, especially if you're flying solo. Once the business takes off, you'll probably find your responsibilities — and your stress levels— soaring. If you find yourself in this situation, there's only one thing to do, and it's a tough one. You're going to have to relinquish some control.
Even if you're barely keeping your head above water, delegating responsibility could be one of the most difficult moves you make as a business owner. But there's no way around it if you want to stay in business. If you're doing it all on your own, customers will eventually figure it out. Your service will start to suffer, and things will start to slip through the cracks. You might think you can't afford to hire any help, or that taking time to train someone will make you fall behind. But trying to go it alone is a path to burnout.
Sure, you'll now also have to manage employees, but if you outsource and hire wisely, you'll find that your stress levels will plummet and you'll have (slightly) more time on your hands. When you're able to concentrate on the big picture instead of stressing over the details, you and your business will get a new lease on life.
Author's Note: 10 Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Online Business
I had an online business for a hot minute and learned most of these lessons very quickly. More power to all of those who actually make it work!
- DeMers, Jayson. "7 Reasons Your Business is Failing — And What to Do About It." Forbes, June 24, 2014. (April 7, 2015) http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/06/24/7-reasons-your-business-is-failing-and-what-to-do-about-it/
- Entis, Laura. "3 Things to Consider When Scaling Your Online Business." Entrepreneur, Nov. 7, 2014. (April 30, 2015) http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239505
- Hansen, Scott. "5 Fatal Startup Mistakes." Entrepreneur, April 28, 2015. (April 29, 2015) http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245535
- Kingsbery, Jamie. "33 Startups that Died Reveal Why They Failed." Business Insider, June 29, 2013. (April 7, 2015) http://www.businessinsider.com/33-startups-that-died-reveal-why-they-failed-2013-6?op=1
- U.S. Small Business Administration. "Setting Up an Online Business." (April 30, 2015) https://www.sba.gov/content/setting-online-business
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