The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn as an entrepreneur is that you need to invest both time AND money in your business before you earn a profit. Yes – even an online, service-based business owner like me.
The myth about when to invest in your online business
As someone who works with both online entrepreneurs and brick and mortar businesses, I’ve seen a significant mindset difference between the two that has a real-world impact on their results. Here it is: many early entrepreneurs have the idea in their head that they need to make their first dollar *before* they spend money on their business.
Somehow, online entrepreneurs expect that they can DIY everything, despite knowing that any sustainable business has multiple facets that no one person can be an expert in. There’s a reason big businesses have separate departments to handle finances, legal, sales, marketing, information technology, etc.
Sometimes DIY leads to burnout. But a few committed entrepreneurs stick with it despite the massive time losses and frustrations of this approach. For these people who keep their business dream alive, however, their journey towards that first dollar will still be much longer than if they’d carefully invested in expert help early on, in the one or two hardest areas for them.
How much longer? Let me ask you a question instead: how many entrepreneurs have you met that say they’re several months in, but don’t even have a website yet? I’m telling you, my own tally is breaking 3 digits.
Why put yourself through the suffering? Why wait so long to earn your first dollar? The ROI on 1 or 2 smart, initial investments will be well worth it. You’ll feel like a legit entrepreneur sooner, and be able to reinvest that first revenue into further solidifying the foundations of your business.
Invest in your online business as if it were a restaurant
But don’t just take it from me – consider this eye-opening perspective from a renowned online business coach: Jenny Shih.
Jenny often shares this perspective: treat your online business like a restaurant.
Before you sell your first plate of food (or your first offer) there’s some basic infrastructure that you need to have in place to be able to serve.
The restaurant’s location, the ingredients, and your skills as a manager and chef.
These essentials require an investment of your time AND money, and it’s the same in online business.
Where to invest in your online business:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
If you want to make a difference and make money with your first launch, you need to know how to:
That last part you’re already mostly prepared for: you’re the expert, after all! But they go in order – you won’t be able to serve ANYONE who you haven’t sold yet, and you won’t sell anyone unless you get your marketing strong and consistent so people know you can help them.
So, start at the very beginning.
Audit yourself on Step 1 – Marketing:
- Do you have the technology set up to support you? (Eg. a website?)
- Do you have an SEO strategy to drive organic web traffic to your website?
- Do you have a content marketing strategy to get visibility? If no one knows you can help them, you’ll help no one!
- Do you have the mindset to show up confident, energetic, and resilient in your promotional material? (That includes YouTube, social media, and even your own blog posts.)
- Are you actively capturing leads into an email list with a compelling opt-in?
- Are you then nurturing the leads on your email list?
- And more.
Identify what components you’re missing in Step 1 – Marketing. Make filling those gaps your main priority. Decide if you have the skills, time, and accountability systems to do it on your own. If not, hire a business coach, copywriter, or content marketing coach to do it for you or help you. THAT is where to invest in your online business before anything else.
Once that’s done, audit yourself on Step #2 – sales, and THEN #3 – how you serve. You need the first two pieces locked down before you’re going to have any clients to help.
There’s truly a foundation and order of operations to launching your online business. It may not be buying real estate like you would with a restaurant, but marketing is like buying virtual real estate: your website, your email list, your social media audience, your expert image, etc. It’s how they see there’s a great new business on the block.
Sales is about convincing them to grab a table and order drinks (so you need to have the skills to convince them and the tall cold ones to serve.)
Finally, once they’re in their seats and excited, you serve them the best value they’ve ever had, just like a hot meal at your favourite restaurant.
There’s the same, natural customer journey to everything, whether in-person or online. Go with this flow for the quickest results.
And for the smoothest results, hire the right person to get your marketing rolling and teach you the strategy you need to fill your sales funnel so you can serve. It’s just as important and basic as hiring a realtor for that restaurant storefront, or a lawyer to make sure everything’s above-the-board. You’re still a business owner. You just happen to be online.
Remember the lesson
So, if you’re an early entrepreneur, next time you catch yourself saying “I need to earn a profit *before* I spend money on a coach/brand storytelling/content marketing/copywriting, etc.” stop yourself in your tracks.
You’ll only make a meaningful profit (and often, any profit at all) by investing in your business’ essentials first, like every brick and mortar business across the world.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn as an online business owner? 👇 Share in the comments below!