You’ve probably heard the line about making mistakes. You know, the one that says you learn more from failure than you do from success.
In my case, I’ve been more successful in my online business than a lot of people, but still nowhere near the financial stratosphere of others. My biggest win was replacing my freelance income with passive online income while my kids were in elementary school. That alone was life changing.
Now that I’m older, my biggest mistake has been standing still for too long, afraid to move forward because the stakes feel too high.
Enter serendipity. That’s a long word that means luck, or finding just what you need at the time you need it. Take Marie Forleo’s interview with Seth Godin for example. That little gem landed in my inbox last night, at just the right time for this post.
We wait for it to be the right moment, but this is the right moment.
If you’re lacking courage, looking back at what you wish you’d done differently can help you move forward.
So, here are my top 6 mistakes in my online business and how I’m using them to make my right moment.
Fear is the catchall for every excuse I’ve ever had for not moving my business forward.
For me, the biggest fears are:
Fear of loss of privacy – This is the age of transparency. If you want to, you can broadcast what you’re doing, feeling, saying at any point and any time. Bloggers pour their soul out 2 million times per day, the good, the bad, and the I-really-didn’t-need-to-know-that-about-you. Bottom line, I’ve never been interested in doing that. Deeply personal confessions make me uncomfortable. And privacy concerns are real, right? You have to think carefully about who has access to your personal information. In making privacy my number one concern, I may have missed chances to connect with other great people who share my interests.
Fear of failure – Everyone has this fear in varying degrees. I’d say mine is quite high on the scale. I don’t like moving forward unless I know a lot about something. I don’t want to be caught not knowing, or worse, being wrong.
The problem with fearing failure is, of course, that you never do anything. You never ship, never post, never commit.
Fear of looking stupid or embarrassed – I don’t know anyone who goes around wanting to be embarrassed by something they’ve done. But letting fear get the better of you in this way keeps you hidden. And get this, what may be an embarrassing event to you, is just a blip on the radar of someone else. They may notice for a time, but then they move on.
What I’m doing now:
- Worrying less about what people think of me.
- Caring more about doing work that makes me happy.
- Avoiding privacy paralysis by accepting my boundaries around privacy and making some adjustments. For example, what would I tell new friends about myself? What would I share? That’s the level I’m comfortable with. That’s what’s on this blog.
Not investing in my online business to grow
From the beginning, I approached my online business as a sideline. I worked on it during evenings and weekends, with the idea that it wasn’t going to cost me anything except my time.
But as my business grew, and the earnings and time commitment became more substantial, I stuck with this mindset. That was a mistake. Carol Tice summarizes this nicely in her blog Making a Living Writing.
Looking back, I can see missed opportunities because I didn’t reach out to either get help with things I didn’t know how to do, or collaborate freely.
What I’m doing now:
- Being clear about what I’m good at and what makes sense for me to spend my time on.
- Outsourcing the things I don’t do well or don’t have the time for’
- Reaching out to build a network of people who will feed into my business, and me into theirs
Not building a brand I wanted to stand behind
My first affiliate websites were around gardening, voice over IP, sports nutrition, and color contact lenses. But I didn’t want anyone to know about them. I didn’t toot my own horn. Ever.
Why? I didn’t want people I knew to check my sites out in case they they thought they were garbage. Actually, I wasn’t sure if they were garbage. All I knew is that I was having fun working on them.
But everyone starts somewhere. Our earliest efforts at anything (a hobby, job, skill, or sport) are never any good. They’re stepping stones, so learning from them is key.
Think of it this way. If you’re a realtor, a small business owner, or a service provider, you wouldn’t hide yourself away from the local community. You’d be out of business fast. To build your reputation you have to get out there and contribute. An online business is no different.
What I’m doing now:
- Build something I’m super proud of, warts and all.
- Tell the world.
Not jumping at opportunities that came knocking
Did you know, I was The Voip Girl for awhile?
I started the blog TheVoipGirl.com reviewing voice over IP, mobile phone, and internet phone tech. At the time, there were no women talking about how this stuff worked. I was interested in the topic, and with my tech writing background, thought I’d have some useful things to say.
Whoa! I got traction very quickly and the attention kind of freaked me out. I wasn’t expecting anyone to actually read my posts (imagine that). I felt like a fraud, to be honest.
The result was that I didn’t jump at the chance to be The Voip Girl, and so the blog just petered out. I stayed anonymous out of fear.
I’ve never had another opportunity like that since.
My advice now:
- Get over yourself.
Not thinking BIG enough
This relates to #2, not investing in my business financially.
In the beginning, all I wanted was to make enough money to cover my freelance income. That’s it.
I didn’t think about growth, financially OR personally. I didn’t stretch. My horizon reached to whatever I could accomplish all by myself.
My advice now?
- Have audacious dreams.
This is the right moment to try something new, and to keep trying.
Waiting to pay off the mortgage, waiting for retirement, waiting for kids to move out, waiting for a better job, are fantastic excuses for standing still.
If you’re stuck for a starting point, challenges from your past can be great guideposts, so let them point you in the right direction.
Your turn. What would you do differently now, and how can you let it shape your future? I’d love to know!