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Don't Start an Online Business Unless You're Willing to Run the Gauntlet A successful online business is a blissful way to make a living. Building a successful online business is a lot of hard work you may never get paid for.

By Kimanzi Constable Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The idea of working from home has been exciting entrepreneurs since long before the Internet became what it is today. To be able to work in your PJ's, while earning a little money, is appealing. Since the boom of the Internet age, this dream is becoming more of a reality for those looking to escape the traditional "work" model.

The stats are staggering and keep increasing. Worldwide, 2.5 billion people log onto the Internet every day. On my last trip to Kenya, it seemed like everyone owned a smartphone. Facebook has 1.4 billion active daily users. There have never been so many potential leads in one place.

Reaching these leads and building a profitable online business is easier dreamed than done. When you log onto any social media network, you're bombarded with misleading ads. You're told you can download a cheat sheet some guru uses to make "six-figures" a month. The copy of the ads is doing exactly what they're designed to do.

If you take a step back, you will realize the only way these gurus are making money is by teaching you how to make money. If someone promises you quick success online, they're probably trying to make money off of you. There are several good courses and coaches online, but for every good one there's a scammer. Here are some difficult realities of building an online business.

The numbers don't translate into income.

I've lost count of the number of offers I've had from people who want me to hire them to build my social media presence or email list. These days, you can buy numbers to try impressing potential leads. The problem is that numbers don't lead to engagement, and if there's no engagement, your income won't increase.

People buy from someone they know, like and trust. They spend money where they see a community. You can have big numbers, but if your online presence is a ghost town, all you've done is feed your ego. Don't chase numbers. Focus on building a connection and creating a loyal following.

Related: Why Your Business Goals Might Need a Reality Check

The advertised results are often fudged.

The sad reality of the world of Internet marketing is that there is a lot of lying. The results from sales, promotions and businesses are often inflated to impress leads into doing business with that person/company. These inflated results make it seem easier and more appealing. An entrepreneur who's building believes these results and spends money on a course/coach that won't help their progress.

Copying isn't enough.

It would be great if we could copy someone who's doing what we want to do. That would be so much easier. The problem is that too many people are copying, which keeps them from standing out. A potential lead will do business with the original, not the clone.

Spending money on coaches/courses could sidetrack you.

When it seems like progress is coming slowly, there's a thought to hire a coach or buy an online course. This could help you, but chances are you just need to do the work. You could see a course/coach that's crushing it, but where they are and what they teach might not be right for your business. What starts as a desire for progress, turns into a distraction. Not to mention there are some bad coaches/courses.

Related: Why Would a Successful Entrepreneur Hire a Coach?

Creating freedom and adding value should always be your focus.

If riches, fame and people kissing your ring are your goal, you might achieve it, but it will feel hollow. Entrepreneurs with a slanted focus often crash and burn. The best businesses are built with a strong "why." For the solopreneur that "why" might be freedom. Other entrepreneurs strive to to add value to a large group of people -- Elon Musk's companies come to mind.

It takes more than you think you're capable of giving.

At the end of the day, it takes time to build a profitable online business. It takes a lot of hard work. That work includes:

  • Establishing a strong foundation: Social media presence and building an email list.
  • Growing your platform: Getting traffic through podcast interviews, guest posting and writing for large authorities sites like Entrepreneur.com.
  • Creating products and services to sell: If you're going to build a business, you have to have something to sell. Create value and actionable offerings.

I fully support my family through my online business. I live on Maui and every day I wake up and enjoy the ocean. I coach, consult, have books, have information products and get paid to speak. It took three years of hustle to get to this place of freedom. It wasn't easy, but it was worth the struggle.

You can build a profitable online business over time and without the "get-rich-quick" hype. Building an online business will take time and lots of failures, but you can do it. Build an audience and add value. The income will follow.

Related: 4 Crucial Steps for Creating a Profitable Online Business

Kimanzi Constable

Content Marketing Strategist

Kimanzi Constable is an author of four books and has been published in over 80 publications and magazines. He is the co-founder of Results Global Impact Consulting. He teaches businesses modern content strategies. Join him at RGIC.

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