55 Lessons About Online Business I’ve Learned Over 15 Years

 

In “internet years”, I am an old goon when it comes to blogging and online business.

I’ve been at it now for 15 years. I got started as a technology blogger, built that into a six-figure business, then started this site about 10 years later.

In doing it myself, by helping other people do it, by people involved in mastermind groups and watching several businesses from the inside… I’ve learned alot. The learning never stops, really. Hell, sometimes you have to re-learn something you have forgotten. πŸ™‚

One thing about my evolution is that, while I got started focusing pretty exclusively on blogging, I ended up being acutely aware of the fact that what we’re really doing here is business. It might be a new breed of business, but it is still a business. And a lot of the entrepreneurial lessons that would hold true for any business hold true for an online business, too.

Below, I will outline 55 lessons I’ve learned after being in business now for 15 years. They don’t come in any particular order. And, no doubt, a list of everything would be a lot longer than 55. But, I think you may find it interesting.

Let’s get started…

  1. The most valuable asset of your business is your customer list. Do everything you can to build it. And take care of them.
  2. Power is found in simplicity. Complexity is a sign of failure.
  3. The key to building a real business is systems. Boiling everything you do down to a repeatable procedure is the only way you will EVER be able to move on to a new game.
  4. Deadlines are important even when there is no threat attached to them. Any task will expand to meet the amount of time allotted to it.
  5. The best way to get a lot done is to cut your available time to get it done in half.
  6. The most important skill any entrepreneur can have is the skill of selling.
  7. The #1 most important goal of a brand new entrepreneur is to make the first sale. Everything else is secondary.
  8. Blogs are a great marketing platform. But, they’re not a business. And they never have been.
  9. “Blog monetization” is the old-school way of thinking. The workable way is to build a real business which happens to have a blog.
  10. Never get so entrenched in being the worker in your business that you forget to be the CEO.
  11. When you’ve found out that a certain action is highly successful, don’t stop doing it.
  12. The only way to stay relevant in the world of business is to constantly be expanding. Staying steady and flat is actually the same as shrinking because the world is moving without you.
  13. Money is not a valid reason not to outsource. You won’t make money if you don’t outsource.
  14. Never get caught in the trap of comparing yourself to others. Only compare to your past self.
  15. While others are treating people like a number, you can surpass them by treating people like people and acknowledging them.
  16. Don’t try to sound smart. Make sure what you do say is fully understood by the other party.
  17. When money changes hands, that’s not when the work stops. That’s when the work begins.
  18. You will never grow your business by trying to make everybody happy. You have to know who YOU are, and allow those who resonate to connect with you.
  19. Building a cohesive team is one of the more difficult things for an entrepreneur to do as he/she grows, but it is also the most valuable.
  20. Never assume you know what your audience wants. Ask them.
  21. The best way to complete a product you want to make is to pre-sell it. If nobody buys, it was a bad idea anyway and you just saved yourself a lot of work. If they do buy, they just lit a fire under your ass to get it done.
  22. For anything to grow or expand, you must assign to it a statistic. Then, manage by the numbers.
  23. Never fail to fire somebody out of discomfort.
  24. Blogging every day is a waste of time.
  25. Success isn’t determined by how hard you work, or how long you’ve been doing it. It is determined by ingenuity combined with speed of implementation.
  26. Never fail to maintain a personal connection once made.
  27. The most important asset you have as an entrepreneur is your confidence. Protect it at all costs.
  28. You won’t succeed alone. Join a mastermind group.
  29. If inbox zero is a lost cause for you, then it is time to re-organize your incoming lines of communication.
  30. 20% of your time should be spent on content. The other 80% should be spent on marketing and business expansion.
  31. Businesses which don’t use content marketing will find it harder and harder to get noticed.
  32. Continuity income is important for every business. For any one-off product you may sell, always find a way to build on continuity as an option.
  33. The first step to making money online is to stop searching the internet for how to make money online.
  34. Money is a result of delivering value to the world and to people who need a solution.
  35. If you have to ask how long it will take before you will make money online, you’ve already failed.
  36. Passive income only exists for people who busted their ass for awhile to build it.
  37. Business cards are about as good as trash can liner in most cases.
  38. When you stop working, really stop working. The internet lifestyle means nothing if you don’t know how to shut it off.
  39. Working doesn’t mean going on Facebook.
  40. Never put up shields to stop you from communicating directly with your readers and customers.
  41. Just because you have been doing something for a long time doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it.
  42. The pride of doing it all by yourself is for idiots.
  43. We all tend to be blind to our own constraints. Hiring a business coach or mentor is a great idea not just to learn something, but also to provide a different perspective grounded in experience.
  44. Even while your business is small, structure it as if it were larger. Create different divisions for different areas. Create the systems for them. Even if you’re the one doing all the jobs simultaneously, you’ll never grow unless you build something which can be occupied by another.
  45. In order to get the sale, you have to ask for it.
  46. Don’t sell from your heels. If you feel back-off at the idea of selling your product, then you need to re-visit your product so that you can make it so important to your prospect that you’d be doing them a disservice not to get them to buy it.
  47. Creating systems for your business isn’t just about future outsourcing. It is also to provide YOU a sense of order about what you’re doing. Without systems, your business will seem like Β big ball of effort.
  48. If you think and act small, you’ll stay small.
  49. Not offering a high-end product or service is just leaving money on the table. The 80/20 curve shows that there will be a percentage of people who will take the higher-priced option.
  50. Marketing automation is an important component to growing and scaling a business.
  51. Don’t read people’s income reports. You don’t need the motivation. You need to get to work.
  52. As you make money, sock some of it away into hard assets. Online businesses come and go. The dollar is only as good as the confidence in it. Hard assets of lasting value are a way to make the earnings of your business ever-lasting.
  53. Turn contributions to savings or reserves into a budget item. If you don’t make it part of your monthly budget – like any other bill – then it is all too easy to ignore it.
  54. Real businesses do real accounting, budgeting, and income/outgo tracking. It is small-time thinking to make spending decisions based on your bank balance.
  55. Communication with your audience and customers should be two-way. Don’t get stuck talking AT them. Do everything you can to keep them talking back to you.

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Want Me To Give You A Ton Of Actionable Focus Items For Your Blog – For Free?

One of the services I provide here at the Blog Marketing Academy is the Expert Blog Analysis. It may sound a little presumptuous to call myself an expert on this… but after 15 years of doing it, 5 of them helping other people do it, too… I have no problem claiming that title. πŸ™‚

The way the analysis works is this:

  1. You fill out a quick pre-analysis survey so I know what your main challenges and problem areas are.
  2. I then do a full, personal video walk-through of your site. I literally go over your site with a fine-toothed comb and say right on the video what I would do with your site. The video is then shared with you privately.
  3. We then schedule a followup, personal phone call where we can go over anything you want in person and get anything clarified.

This is a $199 service, and people are signing up for it fairly regularly without me ever really promoting it.

But…

You have a chance to win this service, pay nothing at all. Here’s how…

I would like your help to share this post across social media and bring in some new people – people who you feel can benefit from what we do here at the Academy.

Here’s what you can do right now:

  1. Pick your favorite lesson from the 55 of them above.
  2. Put that quote out onto your social media accounts. Include a link back to this post.
  3. On Facebook, be sure to tag your post to the Blog Marketing Academy page on Facebook. First, “like” the Blog Marketing Academy page. Then, in your post, you can type the “@” sign and then start typing “Blog Marketing Academy” to tag it. You should get a little link to the BMA page.
  4. On Twitter, be sure to include “@davidrisley” in your tweet in some fashion. I know you can only use 140 characters and some of the above quotes are long, but just do the best you can. It isn’t a requirement to follow me, but you can if you want. πŸ™‚
  5. For Google Plus, be sure to circle me. Then, you can tag me in your post using the “+” sign then my name.

The tagging is important that way I can see your post, so don’t forget to do that.

Then…

I will go through all submissions which include all the components I’ve asked for and I will randomly select a winner of the Expert Blog Analysis from the pool of submissions. Obviously, the more you share the post, the more chances you have. But, at the same time, don’t over-do it and piss people off, guys. πŸ™‚

I will contact the winner via social media to complete the details and get things lined up, then I will announce the winner as an edit to this blog post.

The giveaway period ends in one week (November 18th, to be exact). We are now on a weekly publishing schedule here at the Academy, so basically this window to enter the giveaway will last until I publish the next blog post.

If you choose to enter, then I look forward to personally thanking you for sharing and helping spread the word. πŸ™‚

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Responses

  1. David – This list really shows that you’re the in-the-trenches veteran that you are! I’ll especially note your points about the importance and need for automation and establishing systems to run your business. I’m about to start my blog but haven’t really thought much about these aspects. Thanks for the reminder and all the great advice here! Kevin Cheng

  2. Hi David

    #20 I have an issue with – while I agree partially, I think it dangerous to assume the customer ALWAYS knows best. They don’t know what you know about your own business / service / product and may need to be guided a little. Henry Ford (you know the guy who built all those little black cars) is quoted as saying: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said “faster horses”.

    Anyway as it is New Year’s Day today I thought I would share another quote with you that I think your readers may like, that can be applied both to customers, prospects and just about anyone in your life – attributed to Blair Warren: “People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies.”

    Happy New Year everyone!

    Gailstorm

  3. For someone who has just started an online business like me, it’s very great to learn these lessons from an experienced person. #35 is a wake up call for me! Thanks so much for putting this together.

  4. Reading tips from the expert is a good thing. We are learning from you guys. Very nice article and thank you for sharing your skills.

  5. My favorite is #21. Now I gotta do something about that…

    Not sure just what, yet, though. The diet niche is more like a canyon. Maybe my celtic-fiddler niche?

  6. Fantastic Article!! Love it!!! πŸ˜‰
    I went ahead and shared to LINKED IN And Twitter and my large circles!!!
    Have a great day and Thank you!!!

  7. Learning for the experiences of others is a very good thing got many new things to learn. Thanks for his great article.

  8. Dave–these 55 lessons are just awful. They’re a complete joke from someone who has no idea what the dealio is running a business.

    Kidding:-).

    Great stuff actually. #35 is beautiful. Keep up the great content.

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