Seems like everyone wants to start an online business and work from home these days. The new American Dream. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
I too had a mind-numbingly tedious office job and a desire to do something, anything, else.
Since I also happened to have a degree in communication, and a love of writing, somebody suggested I should be a copywriter. Hey, sure, why not?
I started researching (aka googling) and read all the success stories. How anyone can start an online business. How easy it is, especially if you buy this course, or this one, or this one.
What I didn’t find were the people who couldn’t make it work, the un-success stories. The ones I should have been reading.
An online business is still a business. A certain percentage will fail.
The stats don’t lie.
Only 2/3 of small businesses survive for 2 years. Yet the internet would have us believe we can just throw up a website, shout out on social media, and wait for those dolla, dolla bills.
Most of us will be waiting a long time.
I’m not here to shit all over your dreams. By all means, if you want to start an online business, do. Just know what you’re getting in to.
Take me, for example. With only the vaguest notion of what a copywriter actually does, I ran out and got myself a domain name and registered as a business.
The simplicity of getting started online is misleading.
Sure, you can slap up a Squarespace site in a day and start advertising your services. But you probably won’t get very far.
There’s a lot of noise on the internet. Being heard is a problem. You’ll want to have a decent website to help with that.
If you can’t afford to pay for a website (ahem), you’ll be building it yourself. If you’re non-techie and prone to doing everything the hard way, this could take some time.
Since the hard way is pretty much how I roll, building my website was a slow, torturous process. If you’d like to avoid my mistakes or learn from them, you can read the article I wrote about it.
But, no worries, the site got done, and it’s fine now. I grew as a person, and only lost a little bit of hair over it.
The lesson learned?
Don’t underestimate the time it takes to create something new.
A lot of people start a business in their area of expertise: graphic design, software development, yoga instructing.
Many more start out the way I did: hating their job, wanting a change, believing the internet hype (you can do it!), and thinking it’d be easy.
My expertise didn’t lend itself to a neat, online category that could easily translate into a business. I’d spent the last 10 years in an office. Nothing special about that.
But I could write, always could. Hence, copywriting. There was just one problem.
I didn’t really know anything about copywriting. Most people don’t. Which means, not only was I starting a business, I was learning a new skill.
Seems like there’s a lesson in here somewhere….
Know what you’re doing, before starting a business.
Now that I had a copywriting business, I began learning what copywriters do. Writing is indeed a part of it. They write sales copy. Yup. Sales.
I was in hell.
I had to choose what kind of copywriting I wanted to focus on. Glamorous options such as direct mail copywriting (junk mail), print advertisements (magazine ads), online ads (pop-ups! Goody.), and radio or tv ads (somehow, I didn’t think it’d be like Mad Men).
I chose web copywriting, writing text for web pages, as it seemed the least soul-sucking. And I tried, I really did.
I read books and took courses, I studied marketing and SEO (trust me, if you don’t know what this is, you don’t want to).
I spent months doing nothing but learning how to be a copywriter.
Oh, and working. Did I mention that I still had my day job through all of this? I moved to a part-time schedule and started working from home, but I had an income.
This saved me from mountains of stress. And it’s an important lesson.
If your business can’t support you, don’t quit your day job.
No matter how much you want to.
It’s possible to be practical and follow your dreams. It’s not possible to follow your dreams when you’re broke, homeless, and miserable.
Also, my current boss became my first client. See how that works? It’s all about who you know.
Some people get their first client and they’re off and running. I got my first client and finally realized that copywriting was not for me.
I hated it.
The writing itself was fine. It was the begging people to hire you, haggling over what they need vs what they want to pay, and then waiting for them to get back to you. And waiting.
It’s also constant marketing. I couldn’t see myself keeping that up for long.
I spent over 6 months building up a business I didn’t want.
If only I had realized it sooner, but better late than never. Or whatever cliché is supposed to make you feel better at times like this.
A) Let embarrassment and shame keep me on a path I didn’t want to be on, or
B) Suck it up and transition into something else.
I sucked it up and turned my business into a blog (for now).
I love writing, and I love learning. I have no doubt I’ll use my hard-won business skills someday. But today is not that day.
Never be ashamed to admit failure, and move on. Lesson learned.
Giving something up can feel like failure, or it can feel like growth.
I chose growth.
To learn from my experience. To take what I could from it and keep going, instead of staying with it and being miserable.
I don’t introduce myself as a failed copywriter. I’m a blogger, an infopreneur, and someday? An online business owner.
Sometimes it’s all about perspective.
Here endeth the lesson.