There was a huge learning curve for me to transition from academia to online entrepreneur. I had no idea what went on behind the scenes. I thought that I could put up a few blog posts, Youtube videos or tweets and clients would flock to me. I didn't know anything about calls to action, sales funnels, lead generation or conversion rates. I fell into the trap of watching the "internet movie" starring Marie Forleo, swept away by the "happy and hot" lifestyle -- then abruptly waking up to reality when the camera pulled back and there were a hundred crew members holding lights, mics, scripts and costumes.
Everyday I talk to women who are smart, talented and motivated. They are setting up blogs, webinars, mailing lists and social media accounts. They are running in a dozen different directions, taking seminar after seminar, and they still only have 5 clients. Why is that? Why isn't their business successful...yet?
Here are 3 important things that I've learned about being an online entrepreneur:
1. Create a Strategy
If you don't have a plan, you plan to fail. It's kind of harsh, but it's true. You can post a million times on Facebook, but if you don't have a product that meets the needs of your target market - and a clear, concise way of sharing that product information - then you won't turn your posts into clients. Are you blogging because everyone else has a blog? A doctor doesn't take blood because that's what all of the other doctors are doing. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I started working online was trying to copy what others were doing instead of figuring out what worked for my unique business. Don't try to be like anyone else on the Internet - admire them, learn from them, but then find a strategy that feels good, brings in revenue and has measurable results.
2. Find a Mentor
It's hard to argue with the fact that having a mentor is amazing - but not all mentors are created equal. I had an academic mentor for 10 years that was super helpful in teaching me how to do research and publish academic literature, but she couldn't help me at all when it came to building an online business. You need a mentor that has traveled to the destination where you are trying to go. She doesn't have to be miles ahead of you, but she should have some mastery over branding, social media, marketing, sales and so on. She should have strong networks that she is very willing to share. And she should be accessible and passionate about working with you. Find a mentor that inspires you, doesn't cost too much and helps you achieve your goals.
3. Get Support
Support is one of the most important and most overlooked aspects of building a business. Entrepreneurship is lonelier and more challenging than I expected. I've been overworked, overwhelmed and confused about what to do -- and finding a community of strong, smart, like-minded people has made all the difference. There is a perception that online entrepreneurs are achieving success all on their own. Don't be fooled by the clever branding. If you are really trying to grow, you need to find a group of people like the women in my club that will allow you to be vulnerable and give you unconditional empathy and emotional support. Don't try to do it all on your own because you are too proud or stubborn or ashamed to admit that you need help. Even the smartest, most psychic entrepreneur doesn't have all the answers.
And lastly, just because you are building an online business doesn't mean that you have to be online all the time. Get out from behind the computer and meet with people in your community. You have beautiful energy and passion to share. People will feel that when they meet you. I make the most valuable connections at the local parks or cafes - and the outdoors does wonders for our health and happiness.