When it comes to building an online business, success has as much to do with figuring out what works well as it does knowing what pitfalls to avoid. Digital marketing and eCommerce strategies are abundant, and if you ask ten different people for the “right way” to go about doing things, you’ll get ten different answers.
Where there is far more similarity between successful digital entrepreneurs are the mistakes made along the way. There are multiple recipes for success, but some tried and true mistakes that all digital entrepreneurs need to learn how to avoid.
For the most part, mistakes tend to occur most often from tunnel-visioning. Finding one recipe that works well is fairly easy. It’s finding multiple ways of doing things that’s the difficult part. Because what happens when that one stream dries up? You’re going to want your efforts to be diversified, otherwise you’ll quickly find yourself standing on a house of cards.
One digital entrepreneur, in particular, knows this far too well. Her name is Ellen Lin, and she has built a seven figure coaching business with clients all over the world. Lin’s story started back tin Taipei, Taiwan, coming to the United States when she was just fourteen years old. After graduating from UC San Diego, she attended the Academy of Art University for Animation and Visual Effects, and pursued a career in the field of video game design. In 2009, however, she came face to face with the catalyst that tends to spark most entrepreneurial ventures: she was laid off. She started reading entrepreneurial books, which led her to discovering the value of becoming an industry teacher and educator on the Internet. Today, she specializes in building and marketing online courses and eCommerce strategies, such as running a successful Amazon store.
But the journey to where Lin is today was not a straight shot—every entrepreneur knows it never works like that. Here are three of the biggest mistakes Lin had to learn the hard way, and what she encourages other aspiring digital entrepreneurs to avoid:
1. Selling popular, proven products does not guarantee sales.
“When I first started out selling products online, I tried to mimic what was already a Top 100 seller. I thought these profitable products with high demand would be easy to sell. But after a month, I only got a few sales, and was immediately discouraged. I thought maybe I picked the wrong product, so I tried something else within the Top 100 and repeated the cycle. I made only a few sales again. I did this three or four times until I realized this strategy just doesn’t work,” she said.
Sure, there are people who can successfully mimic what’s already been proven, but the vast majority of the time, success means having to forge your own way. If you aren’t able to come up with your own ideas and unearth your own ways of getting people to purchase your products, you will forever be stuck chasing what has already come and gone.
2. Do not focus only on Amazon.
“When most people think about selling online, they tend to only think about Amazon. Recently, people were making tons of money for selling hoverboards on Amazon, but one day Amazon decided to remove all hoverboard listings due to safety concerns right before the Christmas shopping season. This left sellers with zero sales, when they expected hundreds or even thousands,” said Lin.
This goes back to diversifying your approach, and not limiting yourself to any one platform. This is the same mentality that stands behind having multiple social followings on multiple platforms. What happens if Twitter dies tomorrow, and that’s the only platform you have an audience? Now, you’re back at square one. It’s crucial to come at your larger strategy from multiple angles, otherwise you put yourself at risk of losing your only stream of income.
3. Bootstrap it. You don’t need lots of money to get started.
“People think you need a lot of money to start an online business, and that’s just simply not true. I spent $600 to start my online business. Sophia Amoruso from NastyGal started hers with $50,” said Lin.
The beauty of being a digital entrepreneur is that, depending on your line of business, much of what you need to get started is free—or freemium to start. Websites, email capture software, credit card processing, all these things are readily available and extremely cost effective for a new entrepreneur. There’s no reason to sit back and wait to start because of capital constraints. Figure out how you can take those first few steps with the same amount of money you’d spend at a restaurant on a Friday night.