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The problem with starting an online business

January 13, 2021

The problem with starting an online business is not your entrepreneurial dreams – it’s the self-appointed gurus of the online business world.

They’re the gatekeepers: you know, the ones whose affiliates bombard your inbox once or twice a year, promising that this is the one course you need to make money online, and as passively and easily as possible. You probably have a hunch, somewhere in your gut, that these guru gatekeepers are initiating this many women into online business through their doors by promising the world by making it sound too easy.

Why? So you’ll buy their course.

This monopoly on “how to start an online business” means most online entrepreneurs today have wasted their time passively absorbing a hands-off, pre-recorded course on starting a business created by a guru they’ll never speak to in real life.

Those who got through with 0 accountability in the program then went on to create a high-ticket program (much like the course they just went through) thinking that if they put up a page on their website explaining how it works, it’ll sell. (Not a proper, copywritten sales page, mind you just a brief explainer based on the sales pages, or worse, funnels, they’ve been through as a consumer themselves.) No SEO or web content driving traffic to their website either.

And the only prospecting plan the gurus gave them was to “show up and serve” in Facebook groups, or graduate quickly to Facebook ads. So no one shows up one their sales page. And if by some miracle (or direct message) they do, they’re not clicking “buy” on that $4000 online course the last 6 months was spent creating.

Now, there are A LOT of reasons why this system is so broken, and why women with all the best intentions in the world are being manipulated into wasting money on these gatekeeper guru courses. Women are being thrown into the deep end of online business without the coaching, network, skillset, and support to make it a success. The consequence is money, effort, time, and ultimately self-confidence wasted away.

That’s because these guru gatekeepers promise big results (and I mean 4 hour workweek, 6-figure big results) for little to no effort – and often all in the first year. They take women’s money, and don’t provide the core skills and strategic training necessary to make it worth the return on investment. Reflect on the “starting an online business or “creating an online course” you took, or are considering taking.

Do they promise to be the only solution you need in business, yet have major gaps in the core foundations below? 

  • Do market research interviews
  • Test small offers first
  • Figure out your brand messaging and brand archetype so you’re consistent and trustworthy
  • Craft compelling, static page copy for your website (or outsource)
  • Learn the basics of copywriting for your first sales page (or learn how to outsource responsibly)
  • Design (or outsource) your website
  • Announce your business to your personal and professional network
  • Learn great content marketing
  • Choose 1 pillar content medium and repurpose for 1-2 other platforms
  • Network and collaborate intentionally
  • Learn sales
  • Create a testimonial and referral system
  • Start testing a larger offer
  • Etc.

I know that the first online business program I took was missing almost everything on this list.

The key to my success was actually a mastermind, networking face-to-face (even virtually), leveraging my existing corporate content marketing experience and SEO knowledge, training with my writing mentor, spending some one-on-one time with a business coach, working with my sales coach, and otherwise, filling in the gaps by taking risks and coming back from a lot of mistakes.

When you look at the gaps, it’s obvious that the biggest online business gurus are playing off manipulative beliefs that are so appealing to people new in business:

  • “If you believe hard enough, it’ll manifest.”
  • “If you build it, they will come.”
  • “Passive income is easy.”

As if putting in alittle to no work upfront ever created results! I’m getting sick of these lies and oversimplifications.

On top of that, the whole guru model is flawed. No hands-off, month-long course is ever going to teach you all the aspects of business strategy, admin, content marketing, copywriting, finances, sales, etc. that are necessary for a successful online business. Unless you’re willing to spend years on an MBA, there’s no single program that can teach you all you need to know to run your business. Certainly not a month-long, self-paced online course!

The reality is that as online business owners who want to get started fast, we need a couple of expert coaches, a network of colleagues, some self-study, and a willingness to learn from experience. There’s no easy way to start an online business, but there are ways that work; and they can’t work unless you do.

Now, the idea that it’s not “easy” also doesn’t translate into it being miserable, or hustling so hard you have no personal life. That’s a false dichotomy that the gurus are selling. But it does mean you’ll need dedication and showing up to work, but working smart. You need to spend time and effort on your business, just like anything else you create in life. If that doesn’t sound like a great way to spend your time, entrepreneurship might not be a good fit for you, and that’s okay too.

Now, back one of those key, oversimplified myths: “If I build it, they will come.” People WILL come to your offer but they’re not going to magically apparate there like a scene out of Harry Potter.

They’ll come to your offer only if you’re:

  • Talking to the right people
  • Telling those people about your offer in a way that they understand
  • Actively earning their trust
  • Offering something that’s actually helpful to them.

Simple as that. And the keys to this are market research, small offer testing and tweaking, brand messaging, skillful copywriting, and content marketing strategy. These are what to invest your time and money in learning first when starting your online business.

So, about that guru gatekeeper course you took: How often did you get 1:1 copywriting training? (After all, it’s a craft which you can only learn through practice and feedback). Did they teach how to use SEO on your website? Did they ever help you create a custom content marketing and prospecting strategy beyond paid ads and chatting in Facebook groups?

I’m willing to bet they didn’t. And yet those myths they so insidiously spread across the internet also set them up to claim that your lack of business success is your fault. Because you didn’t believe enough, didn’t think positive enough, didn’t follow their course exactly on schedule, didn’t serve enough… When it’s actually their fault.

They sold you on a “perfect” system that’s actually broken, and never existed in the first place. Look back in detail through their history, beyond the stories they tell in their marketing campaigns. That’s not even how they became successful themselves.

You deserve better. You deserve hands-on support, no matter what phase your business is in, but especially in the first few years as you get off the ground. You need 1:1 coaches that’ll help you get seen by your ideal clients, communicate your offer, sell them so you can serve them and then blow them away so they’re excited to share their trust in you with others.

You deserve coaches and teachers that will take a personal interest in you and your business, and will help you with starting an online business that works in the real world.


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Emma Givens

The team at EG: Content & Copy are the world’s original, branded copywriting experts. We serve small and medium-sized businesses selling premium services and high-end goods. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter so you never miss a post!



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