Reflections from 1819 Years of Wading In the Online Business Deep End (15 things I wish somebody had told me when…)

Reflections from 18 Years of Serial Entrepreneurship
Do you remember when you first dipped your toes into the online business pool?

Maybe a better term would be whirlpool… or ocean… or freaking white water rapids. LOL. This thing is no joke!

But do you remember?

Do you still remember the excitement?

Or were you scared?

Maybe you’re just starting so it hasn’t been that long.

Just like with anything, there are some aspects that nobody tells you when you’re starting.

For most folks, I don’t even think it’s intentional… it’s just that you’re so deep in it that you forget sometimes what it was like to start.

There are some things that I wish somebody had told me when I first started. And be forewarned… they’re probably not what you think.

And in a minute when I tell you what they are you’re probably gonna look at some of them like “Really? THAT’S what you wish you’d known?”

Shoot, when I started online in 1998 I was like a cow staring at a new gate… clueless. (gosh that seems like FOREVER ago… just saying 1998 makes me think of Back to the Future or something). This December will be 18 years!

I didn’t know much except that I wanted to have my own business and I wanted to sell books (I’m a book nerd and back then Amazon wasn’t the BEAST that it is now).

My business needed to be online because I was working full time (I was about a year out of college and my boring engineering job was not letting me be great).

So I did what any self-professed geek would do… I taught myself HTML and ColdFusion and built an online bookstore. It was ugly… but back then I thought it was BEAUTIFUL. :)

Eventually I took that online biz offline too and had both the online bookstore and a physical location.

Here are a few pics (those rabbit ears though!)…

That’s where my love for online business began and it hasn’t stopped growing since.

I’ve learned a TON over the last 18 years… which is like what, 180 “Internet years”?

In the online world there are always like 10 different ways to do the same friggin’ thing. LOL

Sometimes I feel bad for the people who ask a question in a Facebook group and get like 75 replies all telling them to do something different. Can you say problem NOT solved?

In any case, what I wish someone had told me when I started are actually simple things (mostly)…

1. Don’t start if you’re not willing to accept some failures and keep going. In this business you have to test everything, keep what works and toss what doesn’t. Sure, everybody has “formulas” that work (heck I do too) but no one thing works for everybody. So you have to reframe failures… they’re just lessons. Some more painful than others but they are all lessons. It’s just research.

2. Start small and scale. Never throw all of your money into something you haven’t tested. For example, when paying for traffic to your website or offers… test your audience, test your ads, test your copy, test your landing pages… start with a small budget, see how it goes for a few days and then scale it up.

3. 99% of the time the expenses you are creating are unnecessary. Start with getting CUSTOMERS. Pour your time, money and energy into THAT. Get sales first!

4. Simple makes money too. Often more money than complicated ever does. Just keep it simple superstar. ;)

5. It’s ok to be you. It’s ok to be transparent. It’s ok to be laid back if that’s who you are. You can be you without compromising excellence and that’s what will make your business fun, not just another job. People relate to people, not personas.

6. It’s ok to say no. And in some cases h*** no! All money ain’t good money. Period.

7. How you start is how you will be expected to finish. Meaning don’t start something that you cannot sustain because you were looking at “right now” and not longterm effects. What you allow people to do will continue. It’s you’re business. You set the rules based on your boundaries.

8. Always take time away from your business to BREATHE. Your creativity and productivity will suffer if you don’t.

9.  Always have contracts and systems and do not deviate. You have them for a reason. When you deviate, it’s bites you in the butt.

10. Be decisive and take action quickly. Ideas without action just turn into shouldas, wouldas and couldas. Do your due diligence, decide, act.

11. Focus, focus, focus. Decide what you will be great at. What you’re expertise will be and do that. Doesn’t mean you can’t add other things later but while you can chase more than one rabbit at a time, you’ll probably catch neither, right?

12. Saying you serve everybody means you serve nobody. And having a niche often produces bigger profits than trying to serve everyone and anyone. Knowing who you’re target audience is down to the minutest detail is like throwing gas on a fire. You’ll make better decisions… faster. You’ll implement faster.

13. Don’t neglect LIFE for business. Yes. “entrepreneurs live like no one else so they can live like no one else”… I get it. But that doesn’t mean that the people you love will still be there when you’re finally ready to live like no one else. Balance is elusive however wisdom is not. Use it.

14. Systems and repeatable processes will be your best friends. Document everything. Pay now (by investing the time) or pay later (by wasting money).

15. It’s ok to be different and not follow the crowd. Just because the whole world seems to be doing something doesn’t mean that you have to do it too. Always understand who you’re selling to and what they want/need. Then do what works for you and your business. Blindly copying gurus, jumping from one coach to the next and trying to fit square tactics into your round business just because it’s what “everyone” else is doing only leads to frustration and empty pockets.

Good intentions without implementation is a recipe for heartache and disappointment.

On the flip side, having clarity is priceless. When you have clarity, you can implement faster and reach your goals quicker. It’s priceless.

What would you tell your “just starting out self” if you had the chance?

NOTE: My Simple Social Media Action Guide shows you the exact strategy I’ve used to create a location independent business that gives me freedom and flexibility. Check it out!

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About Tamala

I help service providers and solopreneurs, like you, put all of your marketing and technology pieces together so that your vision transforms from just ideas and dreams into a clear digital marketing strategy that's authentic and effective.

Together we create real, income-generating digital assets that consistently attract, engage and convert your best clients... we build an automated system that leverages your time and sells seamlessly so you can spend more time serving.

I’m also a former Electrical Engineer who happened to fall in love with all things Internet Business related back when dinosaurs still roamed the Internet and AOL so proudly announced “you’ve got mail”. :)

As an implementer, I help non-techie entrepreneurs, especially service providers, who are paralyzed by technology-overwhelm IMPLEMENT their ideas and unlock the flow of money in their businesses by putting all of their tech pieces together so that their vision and strategy transform from just ideas and dreams to actual working, income-generating digital assets, like sales pages, email signup pages, membership sites, email sequences, websites and sales funnels that convert lookers into leads and browsers into buyers.

Create. Automate. Be Flexible. Be Free.


  1. I agree that Systems and repeatable processes are important, but I am finding it a challenge for my web design company. We have 70 clients and dont have the time to build systems. Is there any advice you could give me as a frustrated CEO?

    • Honestly, you have to make the time. The only way you will keep scaling your biz and be able to have a consistent level of service is to have systems. Document everything as you go and then hire someone to organize it into “process guides” and/or tutorials for you. Here’s a good article that may help also – I also think that starting out, it doesn’t have to be super complicated. Start with the things you know you do repeatedly and (based on your previous comment) the things that if you outsourced them would free up your time. So basically prioritize based on those 2 things. It’s kind of like when a when a biz owner needs to train an assistant… it’s “painful” trying to find the time so the person is underutilized and the biz owner stays stressed out and the biz suffers… but once the owner just digs in and makes the time to train them, there’s no looking back and things take off from there. But there’s no way around that initial investment of time.