Starting and growing a small business online is actually a pretty rewarding and exciting venture that offers endless possibilities to anyone who has a little bit of an entrepreneur in them.
10 or 15 years ago, blogs and social media hadn’t really exploded, but the digital landscape has opened up a world of opportunities, allowing anyong to turn their passions and ideas into profitable ventures from the comfort of their own homes.
However, amidst the vast sea of information and success stories, there are certain myths that can cloud the judgment and hinder the progress of aspiring online business owners. I still see so much of false information and promises online by “experts” who tell you if you do x y z, you will see the success that they have.
It’s really not that simple or easy. Especially not so in this day and age where the Internet has changed so much and the online space is no longer like what it was 5 or 10 years ago.
So here we go – 5 key myths I keep seeing floating around that I’d love to debunk.
Myth #1 Newsletters are easy to grow
Many business owners always recommend that you collect people’s email addresses and create a sort of community or newsletter of fans (hopefully) where you can easily reach and sell to. It also helps to deal with the volatility that can happen if you are depending on a social media platform and its algorithms.
Besides, these social media platforms can just disappear tomorrow and along with it, all your followers (who have never really belonged to you anyway) will disappear too. This is usually a great selling point of newsletters that social media can just never have.
The thing is, newsletters are incredibly hard to grow these days.
The online space has come a long way, from double opt-ins being mandated on email marketing platforms, to data privacy laws and challenges, all in a span of a couple of short years.
When I first started my business a couple of years ago, it was incredibly easy to gain email subscribers. All you had to do was offer a lead magnet, cheat-sheet, opt-in, downloadable pdf of some form and your email subscriber numbers would be on the rise daily.
I used to get a couple of hundred, if not a hundred per day – it wasn’t difficult. Now though? What I’ve been noticing is that the majority of people are not responding to opt-ins and lead magnets the same way as before.
People are fatigued and overwhelmed by the lead magnet/email challenge/free webinar/free e-book type of email opt-ins. And they all know that these free things just go into a downloads folder never to be touched again anyways (people rarely value free things). Take a look at my post here where I talk about why I deleted my email subs last year and no longer offer free stuff.
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People are also tired of all the spammy emails that businesses send them after and have gotten clever at just not giving up their email adds in the first place or creating separate email addresses for that.
You’ve gotta work incredibly hard now to get people to pay attention and be willing to part with their email addresses. Those that are telling you it’s easy to grow a list of email subscribers are probably the really lucky ones that grew theirs exponentially, ten years ago when competition wasn’t so stiff.
It’s a totally different ballgame now.
Myth #2 You can get easy traction with newer places like Substack and/or Medium
Before Substack burst on the scene, Medium was all the rage. It was pretty under-the-radar still in 2015-16 but became really mainstream in 2018-ish. I remember back in the early days, it was so easy to write articles and get a whole load of fans from them. Once the platform got saturated and started bringing in memberships and putting things behind a paywall, it was incredibly hard to stand out amongst the crowd and earn money.
Substack is the newest rage and offers a lot of different features on their platform that makes it – in my opinion – the slightly better one when compared to Medium.
However, where I find it starts to get misleading about both platforms is that – you will never be able to earn substantial amount of money or stand out amongst the zillions of writers there unless you
- Already had a large existing following that you’ve built somewhere else
- Managed to do collabs with big-name authors/business owners, and both of you already have a large following
- Get featured by Substack, and their featured people usually fall in points 1 and 2
So it’s just yet another platform for people who have already built their following somewhere else to gain even more new followers. It’s like a rich-gets-richer sorta thing.
Those that built a new following from scratch out of nothing, you will find that they put in TONS of energy and effort into their content, and quite alot of them are niche, and just got really lucky.
For every 1 author/business-person you see who is really making it big on these platforms, there are zillions others that are posting great quality stuff that don’t get to see a modicum of success in these places.
You are better off building your own website on WordPress or SquareSpace, learning about SEO, keywords and long-form content and just working at that daily.
Myth #3 You can still grow to a very successful point posting organically on social media
This applies especially to people who post alot on Instagram, Facebook and to some extent those who make long-form videos on YouTube and even Pinterest. SO MUCH has changed in the social media landscape the past few years and it has grown so rapidly with algorithm changes everyday. A huge number of businesses are now on social media as well, so it’s a very crowded space.
Knowing this, the platform owners have now shifted to pay-for-play. If you are starting afresh on the platform, you will no longer enjoy the sort of engagement that users did just a couple of years ago.
Many of those who have a huge amount of followers either amassed back then or have had a following elsewhere.
The form you have selected does not exist.
Which is why I find it a tad puzzling whenever I see advice online telling people to post thrice a day on instagram, create reels every day, stories, engage with “relevant accounts” (most of whom really don’t care about random commenters). Or Facebook courses telling you what exactly to post. Soooo much of work for very little in return.
I’ve tried all of that and it didn’t work much. It’s ALOT of effort for very little reward. It’s no wonder small business owners find it hard to stay relevant on social media.
You are better off spending that time creating content or engaging in marketing strategies that really make a difference to your business.
#4 You just need an email list to sell to and the money is gonna just keep rolling in
I love email marketing, I really do. I think it’s the best marketing strategy, hands down. But despite what alot of people say, it’s VERY difficult building an email list that is engaged.
What you will get on your lists mostly:
- People who sign up for one thing and never open your emails again
- People who use email adds that they never check in on
- Lots of duds, deadweights and people that aren’t very into your stuff but will open your emails here and there when they are bored
- People who will read all your stuff but never buy anything from you
That is the majority of your list. Only the minority will be engaged. Which is why you need huge email lists to be able to sell to and make a decent earning from.
Anyone who tells you that you can make money from a small list is kinda lying to you. I say kinda because it is not impossible, but you have to guarantee that every single email sub on there is truly interested in your work and always ready to buy.
And that is just impossible to guarantee upfront. All types of people will be on your list and they are all at different stages of their customer journey.
This is why you will see people with huge lists – I’ve seen those with a couple of 1000 to a few hundred thousand – only will have a few hundred or less on their courses/classes replays etc. I follow a very popular but controversial spiritual “leader” who has about 21K subs and is making a very comfortable hundreds to a few thousand each day. But look at the number of people she has on her list?
It takes awhile to build your list to that level, so don’t expect too much right off the bat.
#5 Nothing happens fast anymore – anyone telling you this is a liar
Lots of things have changed in the online space the past couple of years. Email deliverability has gone down, people are more wary of online scams, people are not subscribing in huge numbers, Google keeps changing their SEO algorithm (I find that my reach for my blog has declined abit over the years), social media companies can never make up their minds on how they want the user experience to be like (except that they want you to keep being on their platforms and lining their pockets with money).
So many things are changing.
So if anyone comes along and tells you that you just need 5 strategies and your biz will become a six-figure one in no time – they are lying.
Yup. Or, they’ve created their wealth before all the online mess occurred.
Anyway, it’s very difficult to exactly replicate someone else’s journey and expect the same results for yourself. All businesses are very different and it’s best for you to figure things out yourself.