3 Mistakes I Made When Starting My Online Business

I started my online business in 2009. Not that long ago, but it feels like forever. Entrepreneur years are like dog years, you know?

That first year I was a hustler. In 2009 I hustled all over the place. I went to over 30 networking events, in and out of my town, 10 out of state conferences, took over 40 flights that year (more than a month of 2009 was spent in the air!) and offered “free consulting call” after “free consulting call.”

Even when I wasn’t physically hustling around the country, I was hustling around the web.

I wasted months perfecting my website, my business cards, my logo, my tagline and I spent countless hours checking out everyone else’s sites and comparing myself to them. DANGEROUS territory. I also spoke for free whenever asked, wrote a boatload of guest posts for sites I had never even visited and said “YES” to every opportunity that came my way.

Sound familiar at all?

That first year was rough. And although I believe that every experience shapes us and teaches us valuable lessons, there were a three very specific mistakes I wish I could have dodged.

Mistake #1: Saying YES To Everything Because I Was Afraid (and Uncertain)

I had a corporate job with Tony Robbins that I quit because I wanted to be my own boss. My goal when I left Robbins was to build a business selling my online courses and programs. I was very clear what I wanted to do, just not so clear about how I was going to make it happen.

Although I hate to admit it, I did not save up a bunch of money before I left Robbins so I could have some “ramping up time” before I needed to make money in my new business. I needed to make money right away. So before leaving my corporate job, I had lined up a few consulting clients to help me pay the bills while I worked on my first online course.

Here’s where things went wrong: instead of spending time creating and selling my online courses, all I was doing was hustling to support my one-on-one consulting clients. And worse yet, this meant I went from having one big boss (literally!) to a bunch of mini-bosses. Imagine eight little mini Tony Robbins’ bossing me around. It was maddening.

I went from having one big boss to having 8 mini bosses!

I went from having one big boss to having 8 mini bosses!

So there I was – I had a bunch of clients that I resented and did not enjoy working with, but felt trapped because I did not have a plan for the business I set out to create.

“I Made a Big Mistake!”

In that first year I let fear overtake me. I said “yes” to almost every opportunity that came my way because I was afraid that I would miss an opportunity if I passed it up. The fear came from not having a game plan for my business.

If I had a game plan, I could have seen how my consulting clients fit into my ultimate goal of building a business based on my training programs. They were stepping stones, but at the time I thought they were my demise.

Now when I say “game plan” I am not talking about a 10-page super official game plan for your next five or 10 years in business. I am talking about a six-month and 12-month plan that helps keep your eye on the prize.

The Good News

The good news is that I eventually received some great advice from a mentor that helped me make the transition from clients to courses. Finding a strategic way to transition my business changed everything and without sounding too dramatic, changed my life. When things finally fell into place, my revenue skyrocketed, I had much more freedom and time to spend with my family and I finally started to enjoy my business.

The Bad News

The bad new is that it took me a year longer than it needed to take. I didn’t stop working with clients until 2011. That was 365 days too long of me thinking my dream of a business by my own design was going down the drain fast. If I had a game plan that outlined my transition, I know it would have happened sooner.

My Advice to You

I can promise you this: Your business will look a lot different in year one than the years that follow. Embrace that fact and then get moving on a game plan that will help you identify what you need to do to get you to where you ultimately want to be.

For me this was more about mindset than anything. Looking back I know my one-on-one clients helped me fine tune my content and forced me to get in the trenches before I started to teach the “how-to” that I do today. But my attitude was less than stellar because I thought I was always moving in the wrong direction. The wrong attitude can derail you if you are not careful.

Here’s how to take action:

  • Take the time to create a 6-month and 12-month plan of action.
  • In that plan, outline how you are going to bring in revenue in your first 6-months while still working on your ultimate goals for your business.
  • Create a plan that will serve you monetarily in the moment while supporting your long-term goals for your growing business.

By creating a timeline in your game plan, you can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. Seeing that light makes the “not so fun” work worth it.

Mistake #2: Making Everything a Focus EXCEPT List Building

Another reason for the constant hustle in that first year was because I didn’t have an email list.

Tony would always tell his students that without an email list, you really don’t have a business. I didn’t really understand this statement until I felt the pain from NOT having a list!

There was one experience that helped me realized the power of an email list.

I was working as a consultant for a big shot internet marketer and on one specific day he had a big webinar to do, but I was scheduled to be on a plane, traveling to yet another networking event, trying to find more customers, so I left the reigns in the hands of someone else on his team.

Well to say the least, the webinar was a disaster – they could not log in because the woman I asked to support the call lost the login details, he was 30 minutes late to the webinar, and then once he did get on, the technology went down so people could not hear him. It was a mess.

When I landed, I had over 10 calls from him and he wasn’t just calling to say hello, if you know what I mean.

When I got this guy on the phone, after he yelled at me for a bit – he said, “Amy, this will NEVER happen again.”

I don’t know if it was his actual words or his “I am your boss and you are in trouble” kind of tone, but in that moment, I knew I had to change things fast. I left my corporate job to create a business on my own terms and this experience showed me that it was time to make a big shift. That was the moment when I stopped hustling for work and instead started focusing on building my email list. I knew that if I had a list, I could start to see success in selling my online programs.

My Advice to You

It is essential that you grow your email list. If you don’t focus on your email list, you’re going to wind up like the 2009 me – hustling your way around the interwebs filling your calendar with appointments, phone calls and conferences, instead of moving toward your ultimate goal.

One thing that did not exist when I first started out was a tool called LeadPages. Oh how I wish it did! Today, I don’t know what I would do with it. I use their tool every single day in one capacity or another. To help you understand how the power of LeadPages, here are a few examples of how I am currently using the tool.

3 mistakes I made when starting my online business

Here’s an example of a webinar I am doing next week to promote Marie Forleo’s B-School program. I use LeadPages for all of my live webinar registration pages because it’s so easy to get up and running. It integrates with my email service provider as well as GoToWebinar. Easy!


mistakes I made when starting my online business

When you click on the yellow button in the image above, a popup appears to enter your name and email. LeadPages has split tested hundreds of registration pages to find the templates that convert the best, like this example here. Since they do all the testing, I can be certain my pages are going to convert.


b-school bonus

This is also a LeadPage template. Not only does LeadPages offer templates to collect leads, they also offer templates to support your new leads like this thank you page here.

Here’s how to take action:

  • Think about the needs and challenges of your ideal audience.
  • Create an irresistible giveaway offer.
  • Use LeadPages to set up a opt-in page and a thank you page.
  • Consistently find new ways to driving traffic to your opt-in page, including social media, Facebook ads, and linking to your giveaway in your blog posts.

Mistake #3: Not Knowing How to Turn My Audience into Customers

In those early years, I thought I knew more about online marketing than I actually did. Looking back, I know I would have had even bigger success faster if I mastered three areas: Content creation, copywriting and the art of selling. Let me break it down for you:

1) Content Creation: Knowing how to create stellar content is a MUST if you want to build your business online. There’s just no way around it. But if you are anything like me, this may not necessarily come natural for you. It’s taken me some time to really understand how to create content that will build my authority and keep my audience coming back for more.

When I finally figured this out, my list grew more rapidly and doors started to open up for me in terms of speaking gigs, interviews and invitations to participate in some great opportunities. Master your content and you too will see the doors of opportunity start to swing open for you.

2) Copywriting: This is one area I am constantly working on. I have gotten better over the years because I invested in training to hone in on these skills.

Have you ever noticed how there are certain people online that you LOVE to hear from? You open all of their emails, read their blog religiously and and listen to all of their videos and podcasts? Part of the reason you are drawn to these special people is because they are great copywriters. They have taken the time to understand you – your needs, wants, struggles and challenges – and they communicate with you in a way that is personal and real.

That’s what good copywriters do and when you learn this art, you will see your audience engagement and loyalty DRAMATICALLY increase. Your audience just won’t be able to get enough of you.

3) Selling: I use to hate to sell. When I would do webinars that first year out, my stomach would hurt when I got to the point in the presentation when I would promote my program. But with some help from my mentors, I soon realized that if I believed in my programs and knew I had created a solution my audience needed, I was offering an opportunity to make their businesses better.

My Advice to You

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can eventually figure it all out on your own. I see this all too often and those people are “thinkers” but not the action takers. I highly encourage you to get the training you need to be your very best. My business motto is this: To create a successful business you love, find someone who already has the success you want and model their strategies and systems.

Although I made many mistakes along the way (these are just 3 of the biggest ones!) what I did do right is find the training I needed to turn my mistakes into successes . . . quickly! That’s exactly what I did when I joined Marie Forleo’s B-School in 2010.

If you aren’t familiar with B-School, it’s an eight-week online program that is designed to help you build a business online that you truly love. Marie walks you through identifying your ideal audience, content creation, list building, product creation, promotion and copywriting and so much more. It’s the ultimate business building program and it’s what I used to build my entire business foundation.

If you want to learn more about B-School, you can check out Marie’s FREE 3-part video training here. It’s excellent and full of great tips and strategies for your business. Also, I am partnering with Marie to promote B-School and I have created a special bonus experience to anyone who enrolls in B-School with my affiliate link. To check out my special bonus experience, click here: B-School Bonus.

  • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Wow… one of the most inspirational posts I’ve read in a long time. And the reason: I feel pretty much like you in 2009. Right last November I had my epiphany where I realised I couldn’t cope anymore working for others, doing consulting and at the same time trying to build my own business….

    And here I am 2 months later, and a few conversations with some friends (Jon Loomer, Emeric Ernoult….) focusing on my own goals. So your article arrived at the perfect time.

    Thank you sooooooo much for your words.

  • Jenny Brennan

    Amy, this is a fantastic post. So timely too as Im in the same position… Hustling for clients is hard hard work! Time to start making new plans :-) thanks

  • James tew

    Great post Amy.

    What is your advice when it comes to seeking out a mentor? How can we best approach potential mentors?

  • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

    Love this! Glad to know I wasn’t the only one.

  • http://www.equitablemediation.com/ Joe Dillon

    For a moment I thought I was the one writing this post, not reading it! OK, now that I know I’m not alone, at least I feel a little better… :-)

  • Blaine Hadlock

    Where did this Amy Porterfield come from? I have spent my entire marketing career using corporate speak. Now I am forced to change all that. Reading posts like this helps the transition.
    I also remember reading Jon Loomer’s interview with you… long after it actually occurred and was taken aback then at your candor. Your post earlier outlining all the actual tools really helped and gave me another perspective besides Infusionsoft.
    I have just completed an entire year in Social Media Marketing Graduate school… studying the winners, not the professional teachers aligned with institutions providing them with tenure… working there because they can’t really make it on their own. I’ve been learning from actual marketing professionals, of my choosing, that have already done online marketing successfully. I am now officially adding you to that list.
    The authenticity of your story is inspirational. And, its humbling to know that I am not alone as I heat my own new efforts with online marketing.

  • http://bloggingyourpassion.com/ Jonathan Milligan

    This is golden Amy! I can echo the fact that the moment I began putting time and energy in creating and selling courses around my passion things began to improve. Scalability and leverage are so important for an online business to thrive.

    I’m also a B-School Alum and I can say Marie is the real deal. Sometimes those small little changes can propel you to new heights. Thanks Amy!

  • http://www.coachingreallyworks.com/ Abe S.

    Thanks for the post Amy. It helped me gain some clarity. I have am a coach and I’ve had the desire to not just work time for clients but actually leverage my time using the internet. I’ll be rearranging my priorities a bit now.

  • http://onlinelegacybuilders.com/ Brian Tomlinson

    Amy this is an absolutely great post. List building in particular tends to be something that so many people put to the side not knowing exactly how important this one little thing can be for their business.

    Thanks alot for sharing.

  • Evan VanDerwerker

    Great post, Amy: I can definitely relate to the “spending too much time on my website” comment!

    Keep up the solid posts.

  • http://www.digital-matchbox.com/ Liz Azyan

    Hi Amy, Long time reader, first time commenter. ;) Thanks so much for writing this honest post. I’m exactly in the same position you were in 2010. I’m on the cusp of making a decision on whether to join b-school right now. This has really made me make a decision to sign up to it. Although I am struggling to choose which bonus to go for (there are so many good ones, including yours!)

    No matter what happens, i just want to say thanks so much Amy for being so open and frank about your experience. It’s comforting to know that my experience is not so different than others. I hung onto every word like I was reading my own journey. No more sleepless nights for someone else to reap the rewards. This time, I’ll be doing it for myself, and finally I’m at a point where I know that I’m worth it! :) Thanks again Amy x

  • Felicia

    Hi Amy, what a great post. I find myself in similar situation today. In the process of creating my own business, attending school and working full time I find myself consistently accepting new assignments. Its extremely hard to turn down opportunities when you are intrigued by all, but I have come to the realization that priorities, planning and goal setting is an absolute must at this point. I am rearranging my priorities as a type. Again, great article!!


  • Felicia

    Hi James, great question. I would love to see Amy’s thoughts in reference to sourcing mentors.

  • Anne Uemura

    Jo Barnes recommended me to you for another reason and so I googled your name and found this wealth of offerings. I am so grateful for what you give. Your icing on the cake and introducing me to Maria’s B-school were like the sun coming out after days of clouds. I hope very much to enroll and work with you both but this hinges on some financial issues. It would be a dream come true; and it’s reassuring to actually know so many parts of the journey that you both provide to create what I want. Yes, to be able to make a difference in the world in a bigger way. Thank you so much. Blessings on all of us. ;-)

  • http://www.richgirlbusiness.com Danielle Murrell

    Wow Amy! Thanks for sharing. Sometimes when you see successful marketers online such as yourself you assume it has always been that way for them and can be discouraging to newbies but your honesty and generous tips give us inspiration to keep on trekking.

  • http://SteveDaar.com Steve Daar

    Great article Amy.

    I made those exact mistakes with my first go-round with entrepreneurship. This, my second attempt, has already had more success in one month than the last one had in over a year.

    Still more room for improvement, of course, and you are a part of helping me in that.

    Thank you.

  • Tonji

    Amy, thanks for being transparent and sharing your experience in becoming a successful online entreupenuer. I am currently in the process of truly learning internet marketing and it can be overwhelming with all the information (good or bad) that is out there. I have found a system that I pray will help me to establish myself in this arena and allow me to eventually help others become success as well. Again thanks for sharing and I will most definitely take your advice. I wish you must success with all your future endeavors.

  • sony

    Am new to the world of blogging and your article improved me a lot to grew up….. Continue helping with tips, tricks and valuable informations… So that newbies can grow better and better with you…Make Money , Blogging Tips

  • http://www.AmyPorterfield.com Amy Porterfield

    I LOVE to hear this, @AntonioCalero:disqus – truly great stuff and CONGRATS for going for it!

  • Melinda Todd

    Great advice. I wish I could afford B school but that’s just out of the question. Maybe someday.

  • http://www.startbizquitjob.com/ Naomi Dinsmore

    Hi Amy,

    I’ve been following your work for a while now. This is my first comment.

    Although I know everyone makes mistakes in business, I really do appreciate you speaking about your own personally.

    It’s a great post and much of it I can relate to…

    “I spent countless hours checking out everyone else’s sites and comparing myself to them” The similarities are scary!

    Thanks Naomi

  • Survivalcavefood.com

    Very informative and to the point. Thanks for the great info!

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  • تور چین

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  • john

    While do online business that’s your confidential post is enhance to avoid these mistakes. Your very clear advice is sufficient to get victorious in online marketing business.

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