7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Online Business In My Twenties

Sinem Günel Insights

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When I started my first digital business, I was 20 years old and studying business administration. Until then, I dreamed of finishing my studies and tapping into a corporate career.

Yet, when I dived deeper into today’s opportunities of starting a business from the comfort of my home, my dreams changed. I suddenly aimed to build a business that I could run from anywhere, anytime. Instead of working for the goals of a big company, I decided to work on my dreams.

Now, three years later, I’m finally living this dream. Together with my better half, I run a digital personal development business that allows me to work on the projects I want, with the people I want, wherever and whenever I want.

Yet, we had to make many mistakes until we finally turned our dream into a profitable business. We spent many sleepless nights wondering what we were doing wrong and how we could fix it.

If I could go back in time and teach my 20-year-old self about building a profitable online business, I’d give her the following tips.

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Relationships Matter… a Lot.

If you’re a solopreneur, starting and growing your online business might sometimes feel lonely. Yet, even if you have a business partner, building relationships with other (online) business owners can have a significant impact on your success. Additionally, it will help you to enjoy the journey instead of feeling lonely.

When I initially started making money online, I mainly focused on improving my productivity. I thought that the more I’d do, the more I’d make. Yet, I was wrong.

After three years, I finally understood how important a network of like-minded people is. By looking for mentors, joining mastermind groups, or reaching out to people in your industry, you won’t only make sure to stay sane, but you might even accelerate your business growth. Plus, you can save a lot of money by avoiding major pitfalls.

Once you connect with people from your industry, you’ll realize how solving problems will suddenly become much easier. Instead of spending hours looking for an answer, you can simply ask those who already faced a similar challenge.

The internet makes it easier than ever before to connect with people from various backgrounds and countries. And while building these relationships might not take more than a few hours per month, the return on investment is priceless.

Working More Hours Won’t Help You Succeed. Working on the Right Things Will.

One of the most common mistakes of beginning online entrepreneurs is that they sacrifice their health to get more done. While building a digital business needs dedication and effort, working more doesn’t necessarily lead to success.

Many people waste their time working on redundant tasks and wonder why they don’t see any results. They spend hours writing a blog post or weeks designing their website instead of focusing on critical to-dos. Unfortunately, that’s what I did too. I remember how I spent days designing my first business card, which was a total waste of time.

As an entrepreneur, your job is to deliver value and to sell that value. That’s why you need to focus on so-called high-value activities.

These help you accomplish your business goals and ultimately impact the success of your company. High-value activities are the tasks that you should spend most of your time and energy on.

If you’re starting an online store, you might spend days coming up with the perfect name for your company. But what you should actually do is focus on what matters most: driving sales.

If you’re a freelance writer, you can spend days or even weeks setting up your website and social media channels, or you focus on what will help you keep the business alive: pitching clients and writing.

In most cases, your high-value activity will be focusing on the customer.

When I started my personal development business at the age of 20, I worked at 6 a.m. before going to my internship, at 11 p.m., after studying for my finals, and almost every weekend. Back then, it was necessary to work lots of hours because I didn’t have a well-structured business and I thought that working a lot would lead to success. Now, I know that only working on the right tasks leads to satisfying results.

Working on the right tasks leads to satisfying results.

Follow One Course Until Success

According to Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, focus is an acronym for follow one course until success.

Today, you can choose from hundreds of digital business models. You can build an online store, do social media marketing, be a freelancer, start your own blog, and so much more.

And while all these opportunities are a blessing, they’re also a curse because most beginning entrepreneurs fail to focus on one course and try many different business models without success.

Building a profitable digital business doesn’t need to be complex, but it requires dedication and time. If you constantly change your goals, you’ll never see actual results and get discouraged too quickly.

Instead, do proper research, find your strengths, choose a business model that fits your talents and the needs of the market, and stick to it.

Don’t Wait for Opportunities to Come

Most people waste their lifetime waiting for a big opportunity to change their lives. 

Don’t be like most people. Jump in before you’re ready. Create your own opportunities.

If you always wait for a promising business opportunity to pop up, you might be too late once you come across it. My biggest successes in business came from embracing opportunities that I wasn’t ready for yet.

There are millions of blog posts and videos that will teach you how to start and scale your business, be it an online store, selling digital courses, or whatsoever. You don’t need to wait for the perfect time to get started. You just need to take the leap, connect with the right people, and work on the right tasks.

Improve Your Writing Skills

or find someone who’ll do it for you.

Even if you’re not a writer, you might need to write a lot as a digital entrepreneur.

You’ll write emails, sales pages, product descriptions, copy for your website and ads, social media posts, and probably even articles for your blog.

Powerful writing can not only save lots of time but significantly increase your earnings.

If I was starting from zero, I’d invest in copywriting courses and make sure that I understand the basics of persuasive writing before launching my first products.

Being a more persuasive writer will help you strengthen your relationships (e.g., with customers) and drive more traffic and sales.

If writing is your weakness, it will definitely pay off to collaborate with a skilled writer who helps you to craft the copy for your business.

Working with a skilled writer can help your business

Always Think Long Term

Many businesses these days fail because the founder doesn’t persevere long enough.

Most people chase quick money-making opportunities and give up too soon. Instead of thinking of the long term, they want instant gratification.

Yet, that’s not how you build a reliable business, no matter if on- or offline.

When I first dived into the world of online businesses, I tried too many different opportunities that seemed to be a gold mine. What I should’ve done instead is ask myself what I want to do in the long run.

As Bob Proctor states: “There are no free rides in this life and the only people who are making money the easy way either work in the mint or are on their way to jail, if they have not already arrived there.”

As a digital entrepreneur, you might often come across new, promising opportunities. At first sight, some of them might look like a gold mine, but these opportunities barely lead to long-term satisfaction.

Instead of running after these quick wins, ask yourself what you really want to do, what your strengths are, and what might last in the long run. Some business models are here to stay, others are not going to last for too long. If I had to choose, I’d always choose a reliable source of income over one that might only potentially pay off.

The Best Knowledge Results From Personal Experience

When I started my business, I spent too much time consuming knowledge instead of taking action. And I know I’m not the only one falling into that trap of information overflow.

If you’re new to the world of online business, you might be excited about soaking up all the knowledge that is out there. But the problem is that you’ll never move forward unless you do what you learn.

You can read ten books on how to be a good writer but you’ll still suck at writing if you don’t practice it.

You can watch 20 videos about how to set up your online shop, but this won’t lead to any sales.

Being well-informed is essential, but most people use learning as an excuse to procrastinate. Read good books, watch informative videos, but don’t forget to take action.

The best knowledge always results from personal experience and failure. As a new entrepreneur, you can’t avoid mistakes anyway, the sooner you make them, the better.

Final Thoughts

With today’s thriving opportunities, you’re never too young or too old to start and scale your own digital company. There are hundreds of different business models you can start in your spare time besides your studies or a job.

And while every business comes with its own set of rules, these seven principles might help you save lots of time and energy, no matter what type of digital business you start:

#1 Build relationships with like-minded people in your industry: Connect with people who can answer your burning questions and help you accelerate your personal and business growth.

#2 Identify your high-value activities and focus on getting more of them done: Don’t waste your time with redundant tasks and avoid perfectionism.

#3 Follow one course until success: Choose your niche and work on one thing until you master it. Don’t fall for the shiny object syndrome.

#4 Don’t wait for opportunities to come your way: Create your own opportunities by taking massive action.

#5 Improve your writing skills or find a skilled partner: Writing plays a significant role in your digital business and might make or break your success.

#6 Don’t chase every opportunity: Instead, focus on the long term and build a solid foundation that will last beyond trends.

#7 Don’t consume too much information: Get started and don’t fear failure. The best lessons usually come from the experiences you make.

Right now, it’s easier than ever before to build and scale your own digital business. Millions of people have already done it and you have tons of free resources to learn from. All you need to do is take a leap and regularly remind yourself of these seven principles.

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Sinem Günel
Sinem Günel
Sinem Günel is an entrepreneur, coach, and writer. She is the founder of Personal Growth Base and a top writer on Medium.com