The beginning of a new year is always a great time for planning and reflection for any business, regardless of how young or old it is. For me, 2017 was a year full of personal and professional changes and development. The 16th of May 2017 was my last day at my full-time job in a business support department of a franchise, and on the 17th, I started YVOXS.

Now, depending on how you look at it, YVOXS might seem like a very young startup online business or a very well-established content-rich site. You can decide how you feel about it, but I’d like to share a few things that I think I could’ve done better for YVOXS in the last 7.5 months. I hope that my reflection of the mistakes I’ve made helps those of you trying to start a new (online) business and to not make the same mistakes I did.

 

  1. Not Enough Planning

As you might have noticed in the introductory paragraph above, YVOXS was created the day after the last day of my full-time employment. In fact, I had built the first frame of the website within the first 3 days.

Well, what’s wrong with that?

So much.

I had just jumped into creating a website with such a vague idea of what I wanted it to look like, that everything was guesswork from the very start. Without any post content or images, I couldn’t visualise what the finished product would look like, or test the website from the users’ perspective. It was all “This seems about right. I can always fix it later.

Sure, I could always fix it later and I did. But the amount of time I wasted going back and forth and re-editing everything was absolutely not necessary.

What should you do to save yourself from making the same mistake? Learn how to contain your excitement! In my case, my excitement for creating a website overtook everything else in the picture. Instead, sketch what your website should look like, write down the user experience from landing to purchase, and do only the necessities before thinking about the fancy stuff!

 

  1. No Niche and Target Market

All of the website and design-related back-and-forth might have been okay, if that was the only thing that was holding me back in launching YVOXS. Unfortunately, the uncertainty came from various directions and didn’t stop until a couple of months ago, well into the operation of the business.

Initially, I wanted to make YVOXS the go-to place for entrepreneurs, professionals and university students. It was supposed to have all sorts of business, career and educational advice, with PDF-ready how-to guides, business and CV templates and perhaps a forum to allow discussions among users.

About 2 months into this idea (and after writing about 30 posts in all 3 categories), I realised that I just couldn’t keep it up. I mean, I could have, if I was okay with doing a half-assed job. But in order to provide actual value to my website visitors, I had to either hire a number of people that I couldn’t afford or forget about everything else in my life (like sleeping).

In the end, I dropped the career and student aspects of my business. Fortunately, this was easy enough to do as nobody really knew about YVOXS or what it offers. However, had I not made the decision then, I would either have to stick with it now or risk losing valuable customers.

Now, this is totally avoidable. It’s not just about the workload, but about your skills and strengths. No matter how well-rounded you are, there is always that one thing you’re at least slightly better at. If you’re unsure what your business should focus on, pick that one thing you’re good at and run with it. It’s always easier to add services later than to drop them.

 

  1. Uncertainty about the Product

Even with a narrower target audience, there was a lot of confusion about what I would actually sell. I mean, all the posts and resources are great and all, but what is my actual product?

Once I had dropped the career and student aspects of YVOXS, I had a smaller pool of potential products to choose from. And of course, I had to re-think all existing product ideas to fit the new target audience.

I thought about selling PDF business guides, writing beginners’ business eBooks and even starting an Australian business directory. In the end, I decided on something realistic that I actually enjoy doing: creating business document templates.

And once I decided on creating and selling document templates, it became a lot easier to build on the idea to further develop the product. After a couple of months of just creating templates, I had a light-bulb moment in December where I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if my customers can skip the middle steps and go straight to downloading documents with their own content?” And from there, I started working on creating the online document builder.

To be fair, the time spent on ironing out your product ideas and deciding on the final product is not necessarily a bad thing in the initial stages of your business. What you should focus on however, is to ensure that the product brainstorm phase comes before the launch of your business!

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  1. No Structure around Revenue Streams

Other than selling products to customers directly, there are few ways you can make money online. Of them, the 2 most popular revenue streams are showing ads on your site and becoming an affiliate seller.

When I considered these methods, I thought, ‘Great! I’ll be making thousands in no time!’ And there I went, setting myself up on all sorts of affiliate and ad networks. And do you know how much money I earnt from them in the last 7.5 months?

$50.

And 100% of that is from AdSense.

Now, before you get disappointed about the potential of ads and affiliate selling, there are some things you should keep in mind.

First, you need website traffic to make money from showing ads. There is no point in having ads on your site if there is no one to view and click on them. And most new websites struggle to get an impressive number of visitors in the first 6 months, when their SEO efforts are just starting to be noticed.

Second, you need to have content to link to your affiliates. (Also, traffic.) I have hundreds of other businesses that I can link to for a percentage of the earnings, but I just haven’t done that. There are several reasons why, but the biggest 2 reasons are:

  1. It’s A LOT of work to source the products and businesses that are relevant to my content, compare their qualities and recommend the best one.
  2. It’s not important right now. Until I’m averaging a few hundred thousand pageviews a month, the likelihood of making any money from it is next to zero.

So, what does this all mean?

It means, stop wasting time at the start of your business, trying to look for other “quick” ways to make extra income! Sure, they can be a source of some great passive income later down the track. But in the beginning of your startup, your energy should be spent on building, developing and establishing your products, main revenue stream and customer base.

 

  1. No Clear Timeline

All of the above combined, the biggest mistake I made for YVOXS in 2017 was not having a clear timeline of events. I didn’t start with a checklist or even an idea of how things will start to come together.

Sure, I had goals. But they were unrealistic. My goals were something like, “Sell 50 products in the first month.” Of course, with no proper plan, website design or even a specific product in mind, this was impossible to achieve.

If I could have known how much time I would spend re-designing, re-creating, re-editing and re-doing practically everything, I would have set aside at least the first two months for doing nothing but planning.

While some people can go off of a vague overall plan, most people benefit from having project-by-project, month-by-month, week-by-week, or even day-by-day plans. So, save yourself some time and future headaches, and sit down and plan out the next year of your startup!

 

Having outlined all the mistakes I’ve made for YVOXS so far, however, it’s not all bad news. The inconsistencies and lack of planning, while I could have done without, are precisely the things that I needed to know in order to grow my business. Without having experienced them firsthand, I couldn’t believe in the advice I share with you. And these mistakes are what pushed me to learn and research more.

For example, the countless sleepless nights I spent working on my website is exactly what I needed in order to enrol in my first online coding course. And the lack of planning and timeline for my own business is precisely what helped me to create the startup business checklist that I absolutely believe in.

So, I hope you avoid these mistakes for your own startup, but don’t despair if you fall into the same traps as I did. In the end, what matters is what you learn from your mistakes!

Now that the celebrations are over, it's time to reflect on the year of 2017 and see what could have been done better. Better planning? Check. Better research? Check. Better marketing? Check. See what I learnt from the mistakes I made in my business in 2017 and how you can avoid them! #business #onlinebusiness #blogger #2018 #newyear