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Running a business is hard work, and even though starting an online business is easier than ever it’s still hard to keep going.
Sometimes you get stuck because you’re bogged down with daily tasks and sometimes you just don’t know what to do next. There are a lot of different things that might cause you to feel stuck or frozen in place when running your business.
I’m going to share with you 12 tips that you can apply no matter what your situation is to get unstuck and start taking action to get your business moving.
1. Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor is one of the best ways to get unstuck and make the most out of your business. Sometimes as adults, we have a tendency to be lone wolves and try and go our own way. This is especially true for entrepreneurs.
The problem is that that isn’t the best way to go about it. Find someone who’s already done what you’re doing or who at least has been successful in business. They’ll be able to see where you are and show you the shortest path to where you want to go. They’ll also be able to help you avoid the pitfalls and mistakes that they’ve seen.
A mentor is extremely valuable and probably even worth paying for if you find the right person.
That said don’t blindly follow all the advice you get, but be humble and willing to take feedback and really think about the advice you are given. You’ll likely be able to shave months or years off of the time it takes you to grow your business with the proper mentor.
2. Apply the 80 – 20 Rule
The 80 – 20 rule says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. This is also known as the Pareto Principle. It describes a disparity between inputs and outputs and applies to most things in business and economics.
If you’re stuck in your online business take some time to figure out what 20% of your effort produces 80% of your results and focus on those things. If you run an online store or Amazon business for example. You probably have a couple of products that make most of your money and a few products that don’t make you very much money. Drop the products that don’t make as much money and focus all of your efforts on the ones that do. The same goes for services you might sell.
There’s a reason that food places like In-n-Out do so well with such a small menu, they just get really good at the things that bring them the most results.
You can also apply it in reverse, are 80% of your problems coming from one employee? Fire that employee. Is a majority of your refunds because of one product? Drop that product.
3. Listen to Your Numbers
If you’re like me keeping track of your numbers can be hard. It is absolutely essential though, if your accounting is just checking your bank account to make sure there’s still money in there then something needs to change.
Keeping track of all of your income and expenses can tell you a lot about your business and how it’s doing. Knowing numbers like your profit margin, cost per lead, conversion rate, average sale, number of returns, and lifetime value of customers can tell you where you need to focus your energy.
For example, if you know your cost per lead and your conversion rate you can know if your pricing is right. If you get really cheap leads at $4, but you only convert 10% of the time that means you are spending $40 per item, does that work with your current pricing? It may mean you need to work on your store’s conversion rate. Likewise, if your cost per lead is $25, but your conversion rate is 50% maybe you can focus on your marketing and bringing your cost per lead down.
Knowing your numbers will tell you where you should be taking action in your business.
You can keep track of a lot of your numbers by using accounting software like QuickBooks or Freshbooks, but you can also hire a bookkeeper to help you for very cheap. if you want someone to help you with some of your other marketing numbers it may be worth it to visit with a financial consultant.
4. Outsource Time Consuming Tasks
Similar to the 80 – 20 rule, you probably get the most results from 20% of the tasks you do. A good way to remedy that is to hire out some of the more time-consuming tasks.
Things that may be eating up your time like social media, customer service emails, bookkeeping, and graphic design can all be outsourced to employees. Things you’re not good at can also be outsourced to an employee, such as online ads or sales. This can give you time to focus on the things you are best at.
Even if you’re not ready to have an employee you may be able to use digital tools or hire freelancers. Upwork is a great place to find freelancers that can help you with all kinds of different tasks. Just be sure to screen them carefully and do a test run if possible.
Another option if you’re looking for an employee is using a services that can help you find amazing employees in the Philippines. Hiring people from the Phillippines and other countries can be an amazing opportunity for you and them. These other countries have much lower average salaries and much lower cost of living that the United States which means you don’t have to pay them as much as a US equivalent and you’ll often get a much more grateful and hardworking employee because you can afford to pay them a great salary for where they are.
Whatever you choose to do just make sure you remember that it’s your business, and you can’t outsource your responsibility for what happens in it.
5. Learn Digital Marketing
If you’re stuck in your business because you’re not finding enough customers, learning some digital marketing skills can be one of the best things for you.
Youtube has a ton of great content on this topic, but do a bit of research to find the right channels. The best thing might be to take a course from someone skilled in the space, a mentor, or from your local business college.
There are a lot of different skills you can learn in digital marketing. Here are just a few of them:
- Paid Online Advertising– This is one of the quickest ways to get new clients, but you need to learn how to keep your conversion rates low or you can end up spending a lot of money here. With online ads, you pay to put your ad in front of someone with a link to contact you, visit your website, or buy your product. The two biggest platforms to learn are Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp) and Google (Google search and youtube). These platforms are similar but have some important differences you’ll need to learn. You can also advertise on smaller platforms if you know your audience spends a lot of time there.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)- SEO is what’s going to help you get free traffic by showing up on the first page of searches. The results also tend to last the longest where ads and social media need to be constantly updated. It has to do with how you build your website, the content you add to it, and getting other people to link to your website. Google is obviously the king of internet searches right now, but all search engines have certain requirements. You can even do SEO for Youtube and Pinterest.
- Social Media– Social media is huge nowadays. Not only can it help you find new customers, but it can also help you build trust with them and to find other people that want to work with you. Find the platform where your customers hang out and get really good at using it.
- Influencer Marketing– Influencer marketing is a great strategy that can really help your business. Influencers build followings of people that trust their recommendations in your space, so if you can find influencers in your space with an active following you can make a lot of sales and build your credibility by partnering with them.
- Other Digital Marketing Skills– Podcasting, Youtube, Copywriting, Email Marketing, etc.
These are pretty broad areas of digital marketing and you can really dive into any one of these. Each platform has its own differences, but if you learn one, you will probably be able to significantly improve your business.
6. Talk to Your Customers
When is the last time you talked to your customers? Probably time to talk to them again.
A lot of entrepreneurs get stuck because they are building what they think their customers want, but they haven’t actually asked them. If you want to succeed at business, you need to be solving a pain point for customers. If you aren’t it’s going to be very difficult to make progress.
The best thing to do is talk to your customer in person or on the phone. This will give you the most information possible and you might realize things that they might not say in writing. Don’t be afraid to take notes.
Try to talk to multiple people and ask them about the problem you’re trying to solve. If they’ve already used your product ask them questions about that.
If you can’t get on the phone or in person, surveys, social media comments, emails, and text are all valuable ways to get feedback as well.
This can be time-consuming and a little uncomfortable, but it will absolutely help your business.
7. Join a Co-working Office/Get Out of Your House
A lot of entrepreneurs run their online businesses out of their homes. Your home can be a distracting place though, if you live with a significant other, kids, or even just roommates you could find yourself getting distracted when you need to be working.
A good way to make progress on your business is to get out of your house. You could go to the public library, a coffee shop, or another building. A really great option is to find a co-working office you can go to.
Coworking offices like we-work have been popping up all over the place since remote work started becoming more popular. These are spaces where you can rent a desk or an office and you get a lot of the amenities of working in a large modern office building without having to pay for everything yourself.
A popular option that is growing in some of the western states is called Kiln. Their basic membership gives you access to the shared desks for $245. You also can reserve conference rooms you can use for meetings and interviews, a podcast studio, drinks, and even mail services if you need a mailbox. It’s a great way to make yourself feel more professional about your business and to meet other talented people.
Even if you don’t go this route, it might be a good idea to establish a home office that you only use for work and can be free of distractions. This will help you focus when it’s time and you can also take the home office deduction on your taxes.
8. Raise Your Prices
You need to raise your prices. If you just feel like you’re spinning your wheels and you’re not making progress, it may be time to raise your prices.
This tip applies more to services since more tends to go into pricing products, but still consider if this applies to you.
Raising your prices has the following benefits:
- Filters out the cheap clients- cheap clients isn’t just people that don’t have a lot. It’s clients that always expect way more than they are paying for. They demand a lot and try to pay as little as possible, because they don’t really value your service.
- Increases your margins- when you make more per job problems like doing redos, going over time, or having a slow month don’t put your business at risk.
- Shows your value- pricing portrays value to customers. When clients have to pay more for your service they’ll value it more and you’ll value your own work more. Just make sure to actually deliver on your promises.
Raising prices can be scary, but remember that it’s okay if you lose a few clients if you’re charging more for the others. You can always lower them later or offer sales if it’s not working out. You’ll probably be surprised though.
9. Fire Your Bad Customers
A secret that good business owners know is that the customer is not always right. Just like there are good businesses and bad businesses there are also good customers and bad customers. If you’re feeling stuck it may be time to fire your bad customers.
Look for customers that cause you the most grief. A majority of your problems probably come from a small percentage of your customers. Customers frequently ask for redos or refunds. They may be asking regularly for you to go beyond your scope. They squeeze every last drop out of what they spent with you by constantly pestering you. They might be the ones who are frequently late to appointments or have a general disrespect for your time. Firing those people could be the best thing you do for your business.
When you do this it’s okay to go to them and tell them that “hey I don’t think this is a good fit, I know this other guy and I think he would do a better job for you. We won’t be working together going forward.” It really is okay to do that and then you’ll have more time for the customers that appreciate your business.
10. Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!
If you’re feeling stuck it might be time to pivot. Sometimes you’re stuck because your business just isn’t working or it’s not what people want. This can be really hard to accept, but the sooner you can accept it the better your chances of succeeding at business.
If your business isn’t working it might be time to shut it down, but you may also be able to change your strategy. An amazing example of this is Slack the messenger company. Slack was originally a software that a video game company made. The company was trying and failing to make a game called Glitch. While making the game the developers made a messaging app so that they could work together. When the game failed they realized that the messaging app was really valuable, so they rebranded as slack and started selling to businesses. Now it’s used by people all over.
You might have things in your business that are working that you could focus on when your main product fails. You also might need to pivot in your market. Your product might be failing when marketing to college students, but would be huge with suburban moms. Be willing to change your direction when necessary.
It’s important to make sure that your business isn’t working though and that you’re not just impatient. There are a lot of great businesses out there that just take some patience to grow, but you also don’t want to waste time on an idea that won’t work. A mentor and knowing your numbers can help you to figure out where you are.
11. Take a Weekend Vacation
This may seem counter-productive and for some of you, it might be the wrong move, but for others, it’s what you need.
A lot of entrepreneurs starting an online business let it consume their lives. If you feel stuck, but your business is still taking up all of your time you might need a break.
Take a weekend break. Go camping, snowboarding, surfing, or going to your favorite sports game. You might visit your parents or go on a long date. Do something to take your mind off of work and prep so that you don’t need to look at your laptop or your emails while you’re gone.
Sometimes recharging and enjoying life is a good way to restart and get your business moving again.
12. Just Do It
Just do it. Sometimes that’s all that needs to happen. Stop planning. Stop researching. Stop procrastinating.
Set a goal and do whatever it takes to bring some money in this month. You’ve got this.