7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Online Business
Let’s talk about first forays into the world of online freelancing. For me, that was back in 2013, I had a newborn babe and a toddler and a driving ambition to not succumb to “baby brain”. I also had a new appreciation of freelance writing and I wanted in.
I had loads of passion and ideas for my new venture but not so much of the business skills. Okay, none.
It’s a scary new world when you’re a) venturing back into the workforce post kids; b) starting your own business; and ESPECIALLY c) doing both while trying figure out how the whole business world jumped online while you were having a nana nap.
Hells yeah, we’ve all been there. And many of us are still navigating through that scary world. A long way from where we started but somewhere that suspiciously feels in the middle.
But for those of you who are still dipping your toes in, don’t worry! There’s so many resources out there now (a few too many even) to make the DIY path way easier. Which is what I want talk about today - 7 things I wish I’d known when I started out with my online business.
1. The value of a great business website
It took me an age to get my first business website up and running. And even then, it was a blog-portfolio for quite some time.
I didn’t know that my website could be my best sales and marketing tool. Or that a good website had long term benefits like helping people find me through search engines.
First I tried Wordpress but it was a painfully slow DIY process. Then I stumbled across Squarespace which thrilled me from my ears to my toes. From there, my website went from strength to strength.
RELATED POST: Why Squarespace is Awesome for Small Businesses
2. Anything about SEO (at all)
These days, I’m an SEO copywriter and I love it. SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) is a fascinating, absorbing subject. But it’s a recent love affair. Good SEO is all about strategies to improve your ranking on search engines and get more traffic.
SEO is essential for any online business and the earlier you start, the more SEO juice you’re going to rack up. And the easier it is to position yourself as an expert in your area, before everyone else gets on the bandwagon.
RELATED POST: How To: Get Your Website Noticed By Google
3. How to draft an invoice (and other essential paperwork)
Invoicing is the sort of fundamental business know how that's often forgotten in the excitement of starting up a new business.
Which is silly considering that a business is all about making money. And you can't get paid without invoicing. You get the picture.
I guess I assumed that invoicing wouldn’t be complicated. Turns out it is because you don’t want to mess it up. Your invoice needs to have your ABN and your address and GST (unless you’re GST exempt and then you have to state that).
Get any of this wrong and you won’t get paid. Work with a big company and they’ll have vendor system which you need to include as well. It’s tricky. Who knew?
Get the scoop on setting up your online business! Sign up to my weekly newsletter!
4. Why an accounting system is a good idea
I abhor anything mathematical which is why I avoided accounting for the longest time. An Excel spreadsheet housed all my financial work records. Actually it still does.
But then I discovered online accounting software for freelancers. I use an app called Wave. It connects securely to my bank, creates professional invoices, sends reminders, and helps organise things at tax time. And it's all completely free!
My accounting system went from scary to easy. Yay.
5. Social media is an amazing business tool
I swear Facebook used to be the productivity anti Christ that everyone whined about. Now it’s huge for businesses. And I’m sure it was back in 2013 too.
If you were a trend setting savvy business owner, social media platforms used to be amazing. Free organic traffic, massive ad returns and a clear ride on the gravy train of unfiltered news feeds. Woohoo for you.
Sigh. Those days are unfortunately passé. It's much harder these days as millions of businesses are plugging away online. But not impossible.
Facebook still commands a huge share of the marketplace. and is great for sharing blog posts and building an online community. Which is why I write about it so much! LinkedIn is awesome for connecting with other professionals. Twitter is great for industry news and finding freelance work. There's still lots going on there.
RELATED POST: Social Media: How To Make Twitter Work For Your Business
6. Blogging for business is so valuable
Blogging for business is gold, it really is. Blogging updates your site content, builds trust with your readers, establishes you as an expert, and extends your brand. Blogging is also great for SEO.
Like everything else, the sooner you start blogging, the better. Google loves websites with a consistent lineage, and regular, useful content.
RELATED POST: Why Every Business Needs A Blog
7. Systems make everything better
My work has changed so much over the last 5 years. I’ve gone from a freelance feature writer to a web designer, SEO copywriter and digital marketer. It’s been a huge and scary transformation but I’m so glad that I made the leap.
But I struggled for a while with my business processes. Then I realised that I needed to develop really strong systems. Forms and templates and fixed processes on each of my services. And they make everything 1,000 times better.
Now I know exactly what I’m doing and so do my clients, which is nicely reassuring for both of us.
RELATED POST: How To Rebrand Your Website From Portfolio To Business
I hope this helps. Over to you! What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?
About the author: Lilani Goonesena is an Australian freelance writer, SEO copywriter and Squarespace web designer based in Vientiane, Laos. She loves boosting freelancers and small businesses with web design, SEO content and digital marketing strategy. She writes an awesome weekly newsletter on digital marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff". Lilani also blogs at the delectable Eat Drink Laos, just for fun.