Is Your Online Business Protected Against The Unexpected? 6 Points Of Online Business Self-Reliance And Digital Sovereignty

Do you own and control the data, hardware and software that your online business relies on? This mini-workshop covers how to maintain digital sovereignty.
digital-sovereinty

Does your business have digital sovereignty?

Is your online business reliant on outside providers enough that if one of those providers had a failure, your business would shut down?

Is your business set up so that it can weather major outages, economic downturns, or account terminations?

Today, I want to talk about your digital sovereignty.

Sovereignty is defined as “complete independence and self-government”. And digital sovereignty would be the ability to own and control the data, hardware and software that you rely on.

For our online businesses, digital sovereignty means that you have control and ownership of the data, the records and the software that make your business work. And that your setup is such that another company could not remove that from you.

In today’s times, a lot of people are paying more attention to this in their personal lives. You’re seeing food storage and various prepper actions becoming far more prevalent. Some of it is grounded in outright paranoia, but to a degree it is absolutely smart.

I believe the same mentality should be applied to one’s business.

Our businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. A lot of external factors can impact online business operations and it is simply smart to take stock in your situation and make adjustments as necessary.

Common Online Business Points Of Failure

Unfortunately, the internet has gotten really centralized. I think that trend is in the process of reversal, but right now things are very, VERY dependent on just a handful of big mega-corporations.

An entire industry has sprung up merely to watch Google’s every move because Google can make-or-break entire businesses.

Facebook controls such a higher percentage of social traffic that many media outlets adjust their entire content strategy merely to placate Facebook’s ever-changing mood.

This is gross over-centralization. And it is a big problem.

But, coupled with this centralization is a laziness on the part of end users to simply trust them all.

People get presented with these massive terms of service, just scroll to the bottom and hit “Agree” without even thinking. More and more, too, online businesses are making use of and even relying on third-party hosted services for massive chunks of their operations.

That’s a lot of trust to put in outside companies.

Some of the common things businesses do that makes them dependent are:

  • A focus on and reliance on building communities on third-party platforms (like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, etc.). Sure, these platforms are important for content creators, but stories of accounts being shutdown are incredibly common.
  • Running your entire business through an “all in one” hosted service like ClickFunnels, Kajabi, etc. There’s nothing bad about these services, however they are 100% provided by another company.
  • Building up content distribution channels on Youtube and other major platforms, but without building any owned media. I’ve seen numerous stories of content creators that had their Youtube channels pulled and they had built nothing outside of Youtube.
  • Using third-party email hosting providers, but without any backups. Most blogs use third-party companies to manage their email list and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, most just trust these companies and they never even do backups.
  • Running major segments of your business through any company known to do random account shutdowns. Looking at you Google, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Having your traffic acquisition rely on one or two major networks and not having a well-rounded, longer term content strategy. Sure, you can run traffic paid through Google Ads or Facebook ads, but are you almost totally reliant on that? Have you built any assets where you can generate traffic and leads without paying for it?
  • Are your business finances such that you’re really dependent on that next sale, that next launch… without being able to weather any slowdown?

I want to be clear…

You will not see me here advocate trying to completely avoid Google, Facebook, or any third-party company. Not at all. These companies are convenient. However…

Do it with your eyes wide open and with at least one of those eyes on…. what if. What if that company decided to pull the rug or experiences a major failure? What then?

By doing certain things and structuring your business in certain ways, you can maintain your own digital sovereignty while still using these services and owning your data.

Building A Durable, Sovereign Online Business (Here’s How)

I want to cover several important aspects of a self-reliant online business. And I highly encourage you to take the time to do an audit.

I have prepared a downloadable checklist to help you do an audit on your own business…

I have created an online business sovereignty audit checklist to help you audit your own business. It is available as a free resource inside our member Vault. To gain access to the Vault, just make sure you have a free member account here in the Academy and you’ll get immediate access to the audit checklist (and much more).

And I want to start off with one that might be a little difficult for some, but I want you to consider it.

#1 – Build Your Own Platform That Has All Major Operations “In House”

I know that fully hosted services are convenient. In a lot of cases, people buy into them because of the promise of more convenience, more simplicity, and somebody obvious to turn to for help when needed.

I totally, 100% get it.

Many people love selling their online courses on something like Teachable because it seems much easier than trying to build your own platform on Wordpress.

Many might like something like Kajabi because they promise a platform which is easy to use and everything you need in one place.

And to be clear, these companies are fine. They provide good services. That said…

That’s a pretty massive form of reliance on those companies. Furthermore, in a lot of cases the backup options with these companies if you want your data and setup to be portable are limited.

For this reason, I am a massive proponent of building operations “in house”. And in my cases, I use and recommend Wordpress as the platform.

Wordpress is the preferred platform for true digital sovereignty

Almost anything you might outsource to an outside company, you can do right inside of Wordpress. In many cases, you can do it better inside of Wordpress. With the right plugins, you can make Wordpress do anything you want without knowing any code whatsoever.

The point, however, is this…

When you own your own platform, you’re not 100% reliant on any external company. You maintain your digital sovereignty.

When you do a backup, you’ve got the whole thing. So, even if your web host has a hissy fit or goes offline, you’ve got your platform and you just restore to a new provider and pick up where you left off.

Can it be a little more complicated building your own platform rather than just outsourcing the whole thing to “rented land” by a company with a monthly bill? Sure. But, in my opinion, it is the only way to have a sovereign online business.

So, I will always be a proponent of building things “in house” and not using third-party, “all in one” platforms.

If you ever need any help bringing that kind of functionality into Wordpress so you own and control, I can definitely help you get there.

#2 – Build Your Community On Owned Media

As content creators, we all want more Youtube subscribers. We’d love more followers on Twitter or TikTok, more Likes on Facebook.

But, too many people make themselves almost totally dependent on these platforms.

I’ve seen so many Youtubers who put so much effort into their Youtube channel, but have done next to nothing to build their community elsewhere. And certainly not in an environment that they own and could never be terminated.

And we’ve all seen the stories of Youtubers experiencing an account termination. They just get up one morning and their channel has been terminated. Even sadder is that, in many cases, the reason provided is vague, misapplied, wrongly applied… and Google is so big you have nobody to turn to to fix it.

I can think of no bigger feeling of dread for a content creator than that.

The ONLY solution is to build your own platform and build media which YOU OWN.

This does not mean you don’t use the big networks. These days, Youtube is extremely important. So are the big social media platforms.

You have to be smart, though.

  • If posting videos on Youtube, make sure you have them backed up. You may even want to consider cross-posting them to another network like Vimeo or Rumble.
  • If you want a group or forum for your community, build it in-house. Buddyboss makes this really easy. I’ve seen a lot of paid membership sites use Facebook for member groups. I get the convenience of it, but that means your community is dependent on the whims of Facebook. That’s seems stupid to me for a number of reasons.
  • For EVERY piece of content published on third-party sites, your goal should be to get them over to YOUR platform and, ultimately, on YOUR email list.

Any time you use rented land to publish content, make ALL roads lead to a platform you own and control. And, your goal should be to get them on your email list.

Your email list is owned media. You control that. It is your most important asset.

#3 – Don’t Make Your Business Dependent On Recurring Bills

This one is tightly related to #1 above about not using “all in one” platforms. But, it can extend further.

A lot of software services that online business owners use come with an annual or monthly recurring bill. This is quite standard and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But…

Are you 100% reliant on that company that you’re paying monthly for? Or do you have a backup plan?

What happens if that company decided to raise their prices substantially? Would that put you into a jam because it is such a royal pain in the butt to move and your business relies on that company?

That’s the real point here. If you’re totally reliant on any outside company that charges a recurring fee, then you are not fully in control of your expenses.

This does NOT mean you avoid such companies, necessarily. It does mean, however, that you have a strategy for ensuring that company never proverbially has you by the balls. 🙂

This is why I don’t like big “all in one” companies. Unless you keep paying that bill, your business literally disappears from the internet. And, most of these companies don’t make the data very portable so the notion of moving away from it just seems so HUGE that you can feel like you’re being held hostage.

So, some things to keep in mind:

  • Really try to avoid being dependent on any service to a point where it would be really hard to move away from it.
  • When using third-party services, maintain regular backups of everything you possibly can. Don’t rely on their backups. You want backups you can physically download to your own computer.
  • If you can do it “in house” on Wordpress, do so. That’s my recommendation anyway. Even though many of the good Wordpress plugins have recurring fees, those plugins are almost always using the GPL license. Technically, you’re paying for updates and support and not access to the plugin. If you stopped paying, your platform would still work.

That last point deserves a little more discussion…

Most paid Wordpress plugins will continue to work just fine if you decided to stop paying the company that provides it. The code is on YOUR server and they can’t stop it from working. Not only that, but Wordpress is a GPL world and everything is open source.

There are some instances of closed-source plugins that are reliant on you paying. One example is MemberMouse. I had multiple reasons why I stopped using MemberMouse, but one of them was that I had to continually pay them just so that my plugin would function. Even though it is a Wordpress plugin that I host. MemberMouse holds you hostage and it was a real pain to move away from it.

So, again…

There’s nothing wrong with recurring subscriptions. They’re a fact of life.

Just make sure that for any service you pay on a recurring basis that you won’t get “stuck” with them because things aren’t portable.

#4 – Backup, Backup, Backup

Everybody knows you should backup your data. But, do you do it?

Too many people rely on their host to do it all. Pretty much all hosts run daily site backups, but those backups are still there with your host. Even if your host places backups on other servers for redundancy (and let’s hope they do), that doesn’t mean YOU have any backups.

Or… when’s the last time you actually backed up your email list? Most services provide CSV export of the list, but it isn’t automated. You have to remember to do it manually and most don’t. That means the most important asset you have is totally in the cloud, controlled by another company, and you have nothing.

The solutions are simple.

  • Always and routinely run backups.
  • It isn’t a real backup unless in multiple locations (and one of those locations should be your own computer).

I personally use UpDraftPlus to automatically backup my entire Wordpress site.

It does incremental backups and then full backups. I have it set to sync automatically to Dropbox which, in turn, auto-downloads to both my desktop and laptop computers. That is FOUR backup locations automatically: (1) The backup Cloudways does automatically), (2) Dropbox, (3) My desktop Mac, (4) My Macbook Air.

And since I’m bringing so many pieces of my business “in house” (soon even my email list powered by FluentCRM), that means my entire platform will be included in this backup.

All member accounts, email subscriptions, subscriptions, blog posts, courses, forum posts… everything is included in this backup.

Since most people are still using third-party email list hosts, it is just important that you make a routine habit of going into your account and downloading a CSV export of your list. This way, if worse case scenario happens, you’ve at least for your list in CSV format and could upload it to another provider.

Never forget backups.

When it comes to online business, our assets are digital. We rely on data. But, that data exists in the physical world on disks and in data centers. And…. shit happens. 😉 So, never allow your business to be taken down by an equipment failure or by having even your backups be 100% hosted by a third-party service.

#5 -Build Financial Reserves

Let’s switch gears to money.

Money is a form of energy. It is like the gas in your business fuel tank. So, it is really hard to have a sovereign and self-reliant business if you don’t have any financial reserves.

Does your business have a “rainy day fund”? Do you put any percentage of your business income into reserves or diversify any of it into wealth preserving (or growing) assets?

Entrepreneurs who don’t manage their money can really reduce their durability by not having any reserves. It means your business cannot weather an economic slowdown. Or if that promo you just did didn’t work out as well as you planned, it means you could have a tough time paying your bills.

Obviously, the first level priority here is…. make more money.

When your business is flowing more money (more energy), then everything opens up. That is ALWAYS the first level priority. Make more money.

Secondly, keep expenses under control and keep a really high profit margin. Most solopreneur businesses (especially online) can have very high profit margins. So, as long as you’re not out there blowing money, you should be able to maintain a high profit margin in your business.

Thirdly, keep business reserves. Take a chunk of business income every month (target at least 10% if you can) and put it aside. Consider it a “rainy day” fund.

Fourth, consider ways to park reserves into non-cash assets that can preserve or grow the wealth of the business.

With inflation being what it is, parking cash in your bank just means it is dwindling away. Cash is trash, as Ray Dalio has said. So, how about parking chunks of business reserves into non-cash or even income producing assets?

I don’t give financial advice. That is not my thing. 🙂 But, I can tell you what I do.

I am a big believer in the future of cryptocurrency and I have invested money into it. Almost all of it personal. However, I did also take part of my business reserves account and I used it to purchase Ethereum (ETH) many months ago.

Now, anybody that knows crypto knows it goes up and down all the time. But, I put somewhere around $4K of business funds into ETH at the time. As of this writing, that account is at about $8K. Not only that, it is held on Nexo where the account is earning 4% interest. Obviously, 4% interest is lightyears better than if that cash was sitting in the bank.

I am also a massive fan (and user) of Celsius and I keep a tidy sum on Celsius and earn way more interest than from a bank. But, I use Nexo for those business reserve funds just so I can keep the funds separated. And, of course, if (or when) the crypto markets start to drop off into a bear market, I’ll need to sell.

BTW, if you’re curious to learn more about using crypto accounts (even dollars, if you’re not comfortable with crypto) to earn interest, check out my article on Plain English Crypto on earning interest on your crypto holdings (and blowing your bank away).

Point is…

Have a strategy that works for you. Keep reserves for your business. And consider doing something with them rather than just having it rot in a bank making zero interest.

The point of those reserves, though, is to give your business backup funds for the unexpected.

#6 – Build Long-Term, Owned Traffic Producing Assets

Running paid traffic is always a way to get traffic and direct it into your sales funnels. It always will be.

But, I wouldn’t rely on it.

In fact, I’m currently not running any paid traffic on Google or Facebook because I simply don’t want to give them any money. 🙂 Just out of principle.

But, what gives me the ability to do that is this blog.

Every time you produce a piece of content, think of that as an asset. It is a traffic and conversion asset and your job is to maximize it’s return on investment (ROI).

That blog post, video, podcast episode or whatever it may be…. is an ASSET. And you maximize it’s ROI by:

  • Optimizing it for organic search.
  • Building calls to action into it to build your in-house community (i.e email list)
  • Spending time promoting the asset and building backlinks
  • Doing the Redwood Strategy by routinely updating and maintaining the asset

When you create and publish a blog post and don’t do those things to it, it would be like buying a car and then letting it just sit there and rot in your garage. There’s no ROI if you’re not using it and, in fact, the car just rots and breaks if it isn’t maintained.

Bloggers do this with blog posts all the time. They create it, publish it, then forget it. They move onto the next one. And whatever happens… happens.

The way to give your online business real staying power is to have traffic & conversion assets that you own and are actually working for you.

This means you can get a steady stream of traffic without necessarily having to pay for it.

If your ad account gets shut down, it is then an inconvenience but not a business killer.

Blog Post Preparation - Free Download

In Summary…

I know this is a different kind of post than I usually do.

But, it has been something on my mind. And something I’ve taken action on over the last many months. The digital sovereignty of your online business is something that must be looked at.

The way I look at it is this…

There’s no guarantee that everything will always look the same. And I do believe that the next decade is going to be quite transformational on a global basis across multiple fronts. Any period of great change is going to be rough in spots.

We have inflation creeping up, stealing the value of our money. We have gross centralization on the internet toward “big tech”… and I believe these companies have abused their position in multiple ways.

I think online censorship is going to get worse before it gets better. And the very nature of these big corporations that do it is that they use bots and non-human software to make those decisions and there’s little to no recourse. While the nature of what I discuss here isn’t liable to ever be targeted, is that a guarantee? What if their bots do something by mistake? What if it becomes a case of “caught in the crossfire” and suddenly my Youtube channel is terminated?

I don’t want to be in a position where I have to care. 🙂

I believe the best place to be when it comes to online business is to use the big platforms and services where they will serve a purpose, but NEVER be dependent on them in any way.

That means the value of the asset you’ve built is harder to turn off. And that’s especially important if it is how you make your living.

Online business independence and self-reliance are something I think most people don’t pay enough attention to.

And, you should.

I have created an online business sovereignty audit checklist to help you audit your own business. It is available as a free resource inside our member Vault. To gain access to the Vault, just make sure you have a free member account here in the Academy and you’ll get immediate access to the audit checklist (and much more).

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Responses

  1. Thank you for all this, David! Actually just today I went back and took another look at Thrive Apprentice because I had some nagging doubts about going all in with Thinkific for course hosting (thanks to you + following their Facebook group and seeing recurring themes of discontent + pricing changes). With fresh eyes, Apprentice seems just fine to start with. This blog post and your checklist rained a bit on my parade about the appeal of Circle communities. Their new features are a really good fit for what I want to do with my dogs and babies business. I’ll take a fresh look at BuddyBoss though. With Circle, it is a recurring monthly fee but will be grandfathered. I would own the email addresses and can get backups of members and post content exported upon request but I guess I’d still be starting over if the company went out of business. So, what is that: 2 strikes against it? Or accept that risk with open eyes if I decide it’s a must have? Thank you for giving me a structure for evaluating choices.

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