This warning doesn’t apply to you right now, but it’s something you should keep in the back of your mind at all times. It’s a mistake entrepreneurs make all over the world, every day, in every industry. No entrepreneur is immune to this problem. It affects freelancers, high-powered executives, and of course, ecommerce store owners.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in ecommerce is spending all your time working in your business, rather than on your business.
What’s the difference between in and on?
When you work in your business, you’re basically giving yourself a job handling day-to-day activities. You’re maintaining the website, you’re paying invoices, you’re handling customer service, you’re doing it all.
On the other hand, when you work on your business, you’re improving it and focusing on how to make it grow. You’re planning new initiatives, turning repeatable tasks into processes, integrating tools to automate automatable work, building relationships and partnerships, and driving the marketing machine.
In the beginning, it’s reasonable to work in and on your business. After all, you’re the only person you can rely on. Resources are limited. So you wear all the hats. You can’t pay someone to manage the day-to-day operations.
As you grow though, daily tasks will eventually take up the entire day.
Inevitably, there’ll come a day when you plan to spend several hours focusing on how to grow the business, but get caught up performing mundane daily tasks. So instead of creating business opportunities or pushing your marketing strategy, you’ll just tread water. It’s easy to fall into the trap of working in your own business like an employee.
If you’re a dropshipper, you won’t experience the in vs. on problem as intensely as other types of entrepreneurs. Most of your day-to-day operations are managed by Shopify and Oberlo. Once your customer places an order, there’s little for you to do except field customer support problems and market your business.
But don’t assume you’re immune to this problem because you use sophisticated tools. Tasks that first appear in the on category will eventually migrate to the in category.
For instance, creating and distributing social media content constitutes working on your business, at least initially. Eventually, however, you’ll optimize your social media process so that creating content becomes simple and repeatable. At this point, every social media post you create involves working in your business because it can be offloaded to someone else. (If your process is clear and documented, it might make more sense to hire someone to create the content for you.)
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So How Do You Switch From In to On?
First, adopt the millionaire mindset that your time is most valuable when it’s spent solving problems and growing the business. Every minute you waste on a repetitive or arduous task actually gets in the way of growth. This concept is called the opportunity cost. The cost of something (in this case, the time you spend working on a task) is whatever you give up to get it.
Let’s look at an example:
If you choose to spend an hour creating an email campaign, that’s an hour that could have been spent engaging on social media, creating content, building partnerships with other stores, and so on. The key, therefore, is to work on tasks that provide the most value to the store’s growth. For everything else, you eliminate, automate, or delegate.
Once you feel like you’re giving up too much just to keep the business running, take these steps…
1. Eliminate the Unimportant
When you’re excited about starting your own business, it’s easy to add dozens of tasks to your to-do list. You want unique product photos, clever descriptions, press features, a slick email design… The list is endless.
But not everything is important.
In fact, if you look at your daily to-do list, you can probably spot a few tasks that would add little-to-no value to your business. So cross them off and forget about them.
2. Automate What You Can
You can automate work in three ways:
- Lean on tools as much as you can. If your marketing strategy calls for an active social media presence, don’t spend an hour every day posting across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s smarter to use a social media scheduling tool like Buffer, CoSchedule, or Edgar to create posts a week at a time. Let machines do the work for you whenever you can.
- Second, build processes and templates to simplify work. For instance, once you build an email marketing campaign, save the email template to use it for future campaigns. Then, all you have to do is plug in new information. This also helps keep your branding consistent. You can save templates for everything (even responses to customer questions).
- Document your processes so you don’t have to solve the same problems over and over again. For example, make a checklist of criteria before you add a new product to your store. This way, you can quickly qualify new products as you browse your supplier’s inventory.
3. Delegate the Rest
You don’t have to hire full-time employees to delegate work. In fact, the gig economy has grown so much, it’s easy to hire plenty of by-the-project freelancers to handle any tasks you lack the skills for.
You might hire someone to create social media content, write blog posts or product descriptions, organize your finances and payments, or anything else that frees up your time. Just make sure whatever they do allows you to step away from your day-to-day operations so you can focus on growth.
Remember: You’re only a worker when you have to be. In the beginning, you’ll wear many hats, but make it your goal to quickly replace yourself in your own business.
Once you create a business that doesn’t require your involvement every day, you’ll know you’ve achieved something every entrepreneur dreams of: Actual passive income and absolute freedom.