Starting a digital business can be an exciting adventure, but it can also be a challenging one. As a first-year digital business owner, I experienced a wide range of emotions, from excitement and joy to frustration and stress.
However, I also learned a lot about resilience and how to navigate the ups and downs of digital business.
In this post, I’m going to share with you ten of the most important lessons I learned. I hope it helps make your path easier!
Lesson #1: Embrace Change
Without a doubt, one of the most important things I learned in my first year of digital business is to embrace change. Mmmm…easier said than done, right?
I learned that digital businesses are constantly evolving, and you need to be flexible and adaptable to keep up. This means being open to new ideas, new technologies, and new ways of doing things.
For example, when I first started my digital business, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to offer and how I wanted to do it. However, as I started to interact with my customers and learn more about their needs and preferences, I realized that I needed to make some changes to my business model.
Instead of being resistant to change, I embraced it and made the necessary adjustments to my business. This helped me to quickly grow my customer family, stay relevant, and be competitive in the digital market. (Side note: I also learned if you want to know what your people want…just ask them!)
Lesson #2: Stay Focused
Another lesson I learned in my first year of digital business is the importance of staying focused. When you’re running a digital business, there are so many distractions that can take you away from your goals. Social media, emails, phone calls, and other interruptions can all disrupt your workflow and take up your short supply of valuable time.
I learned to clearly define my business goals and be sure they are SMART goals.
This helped me clear the clutter and keep my eyes on what mattered. Not worrying about growing my follower count, but instead serving the heck out of my people.
With my SMART goals in place, I knew where I needed to be daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly in order to reach my targets. And…avoided going down the rabbit trails on things that didn’t matter.
You can read more about my SMART goal planning methods here and also grab my free downloadable goal planner for yourself!
Lesson #3: Find Your Manifesto
Building my digital business is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s also been one of the hardest things I’ve done. You know what they say though…no pain, no gain!
I learned a few months into the year that I really needed some words to lean on when I felt like my bloodshot eyes were going to absolutely, completely stop working because they were so tired from staring at the computer day and night. (Trust me, it wasn’t a good look!)
When you get to a point that you’re so tired and wondering why you’re putting yourself through all this, you need something that makes you pull up your boot straps and get back to work. For me, it was a set of words.
I’ve always been a person who loves all the signs that say meaningful things and all the quotes that hit you where you need them to. I always tell people that if they don’t want to read, don’t come to our house. :) There’s lots of wall decor with words on them in our home!
Anyway, I found a quote one day that became my manifesto. These words have carried me through some really stressful days because I knew I was doing it all for a reason.
Here’s our business (and my personal) manifesto: “There is no greater joy, nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone’s life.” – Mary Rose McGeady
I mean, what’s better than helping change someone’s life? Right?
Lesson #4: Stick to a Schedule
Creating a schedule that allows you to build your digital business while working a full-time job is vital. Set aside dedicated time each day or week to work on your business and stick to it.
While building my digital business, I was working full-time as a data analyst and was busy! So, I had to come up with a plan that allowed me to work on my business outside of my normal work hours. I knew this would be tricky, but I was beyond committed to doing it.
After a lot of thought, I created a daily routine that had time blocks built-in daily for business building.
For example, each weekday I started getting up at 5:00am and working on my business until 7:30am. Then I would take 30 minutes to grab more caffeine and get myself ready for my day job.
Since I already worked from home, this gear switching was easier and quicker because of not having a commute to work. I’m forever grateful for remote work!
After 5pm each day, I would take time for dinner with Bill and then work on my business again for a couple of hours. Lots of computer time! Then, on weekends I put in lots more hours on the business building. And….it was ALL WORTH IT!!
Sticking to this schedule really helped me focus on one part of my life at a time without feeling pulled between the two. I highly recommend putting together a schedule like this for yourself if you decide it’s time to build your dream business. (I also highly recommend building your dream business!)
Lesson #5: Growth Happens Quickly
In digital business, growth can happen quickly due to several factors. One of the main reasons is the scalability of digital products and services, which can be easily replicated and distributed at minimal cost.
For example, once you build the “engine” of your digital business and set it up with automated systems, it allows you to serve lots of customers in a really effective way.
Additionally, the ability to reach a global audience through digital marketing and advertising can accelerate growth exponentially. With all services and products being delivered in a digital format, there is no end to the possibilities for business growth.
This is all great news, but you need to be ready for it. I’ll never forget the feeling of getting the notification on my phone that my first student had enrolled in the program. It was a feeling of complete joy and validation. The relief I felt that day was enormous.
The next day another student enrolled, and the day after that two more enrolled. It continued on like that and grew so fast that I had to really get some help (and get it quickly) with managing the back office tasks so that I could concentrate on personally supporting these amazing people.
I still get such a shot of joy each time I get an enrollment notification. I’m always overflowing with gratitude and excitement to get to know these new students and help them learn the skills needed to move them into a new chapter of their lives. I thank God daily for these people and the opportunity to know them.
Lesson #6: New Relationships are Priceless
I learned early on what an absolute blessing it is to get to know these amazing students of mine and what a privilege it is to help them change their lives by teaching them new skills.
I’ve always heard the saying “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Well, I found my passion a little later in life, but man, I found it.
I’ve always enjoyed my data analytics work over the many years, but to say I never felt like I was working was…a little bit of a stretch. :)
I can honestly say that I LOVE teaching my student family and I have developed so many wonderful relationships that I will treasure for the rest of my life. They are ALL AMAZING and I feel SO BLESSED to get to be a part of their journeys!!
Lesson #7: Take Care of Yourself
Running a digital business can be stressful, and it’s important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and neglect your own needs, but this can (and will) lead to burnout and other health issues.
This was one lesson I really learned the hard way. After hitting a virtual wall, I gave in to the whole “self-care thing” and put a routine together. If you know me, you know I have to have a plan! :)
I made sure to take scheduled breaks throughout the day, exercise regularly, and eat (kinda) healthy foods. Ok, mostly I avoided too many carbs because they would make me want to lay my head down on my keyboard and call it a day!
I also made time for activities that I enjoyed, such as listening to snippets of a book on Audible during a break (when I may or may not have been unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry), enjoying some downtime with family, and working in some quick weekend trips with Bill now and then.
I learned (kicking and screaming) that by taking care of myself, I was able to stay energized and focused, even during one of the most challenging and exciting times of my life.
Lesson #8: Embrace Failures
Failure is a part of the learning process. We all know that nobody likes to fail, but we all do at some point. Embracing failures is a critical mindset for building a successful digital business. Just as with any business, failures are inevitable and often necessary for growth.
I learned to look at failure as an opportunity to learn and refine strategies, products, and services.
For example, early on I did a promotion of our Rockstar Data Analytics for Beginners course to a specific demographic. We targeted men & women, ages 24-35 with interest in data, and without a college degree, because I felt this would be the target market for the population of people who would be interested in my course.
And…we really didn’t get much interaction with the promotion at all from our targeted audience. Not much engagement, and no enrollments. That was very discouraging and felt more than a little hopeless. It felt like I was really off-track on thinking people needed my course.
After picking myself up of the ground, I decided maybe I had targeted the wrong people and ran the promotion again with new targets. This time, we aimed the ads at men and women, ages between 35 and 64, in the United States and left it at that. I was SHOCKED to see the conversions we got on this new promotion period. Many people enrolled for the course this time!
When I started the business, I thought my target market would be younger people who wanted to get into the world of data analytics, but thought they needed a degree…and didn’t have one.
In looking at the data, my ACTUAL target market is people (94% women) between ages 40 and 64 and many of them do have college degrees already in another area of education. They are now moving into data analytics as their second (and sometimes third) career transition.
So, without my first nerve-wracking, stress-inducing promotion failure, I wouldn’t have figured out who my target market was NOT, so that I could quickly find those people that really WERE my people.
(And, btw, my Rockstars are BEYOND amazing and I love working with them SOOO incredibly much!)
Lesson #9: Celebrate Successes
It’s so important to celebrate your successes along the way, no matter how big or small they may be.
I learned that really taking the time to celebrate your successes will help you stay motivated and continue to work hard towards your goals.
We have some milestones built into our larger goals and we make sure we identify ahead of time what we will do to celebrate those milestones when we hit them. Knowing what the “prize” is always seems to make it more fun as we work toward hitting each milestone along the way!
For the smaller goals, we do the same thing with smaller rewards.
We make sure to take time to stop, acknowledge and be grateful for each of our successes and those of our customer family, too. I love watching our students grab their dream lives!
Lesson #10: Surround Yourself with Supportive People
OK, this one is last on the list, but definitely not the least important. I can’t stress this one enough. I’m one of those people that thinks they can just handle whatever is thrown their way, doesn’t like to ask for help, and just loves to help other people. You know the kind, right? You may be one of those, too! :)
Well, listen up, the support of the people in my life has been CRUCIAL to the success of our business. Whether it was lending an ear when I needed to talk something through, or showing interest in how the business was going, or cooking dinner when I needed to stay at the computer, or celebrating with me each time our Rockstar Family grew, or helping out with some of the back office tasks, and all the many other things they all did and still do to help…the business success is as much theirs as it is mine.
I now have a great team that provides me with so much amazing support and has given me the gift of having fewer hours at the computer. I’m so incredibly thankful for them and all their hard work! My family is very grateful for my team, also. ;)
So, the moral of this story is to let the people in your life help when you need it!
As I said at the beginning of this post, starting a digital business can be challenging, but it can also be so incredibly rewarding. In my first year of digital business, I learned a lot about resilience and how to navigate the ups and downs of the digital market.
By embracing change, staying focused, taking care of myself, sticking to a schedule, living by my manifesto, handling the growth, serving my students well, celebrating successes, embracing failure, and surrounding myself with supportive people, I was able to survive and thrive in my first year of digital business.
I hope that these lessons will be helpful to others who are just starting out on their own digital business journey.
I wish you all the best,