10 things I learned from starting my online business

You can’t know everything when you start your online business. So what can you do to help yourself? Gather as much information as possible before you start.


I could not wait to start my own online business. I thought I could easily start and manage it while working as a full-time lawyer. Once I started, however, the magnitude of the work required hit me. I was excited but overwhelmed and could not sleep with the stress. There was so much to learn. So I decided to take the plunge, quit my safe, well-paid professional job and dedicate myself full time to my new venture.

Here are the top ten lessons I’ve learned:

Lesson #1: Quality costs

Don’t try to cut corners with your online business. For example, your website needs to: look professional, load quickly, be up to date and work well. These will all cost money to get right from the beginning. Otherwise, you may lose potential customers.

Lesson #2: It always takes longer than you expect

Your website will never be perfect before you launch so don’t try to make it perfect or you will never actually launch! Start with a few products or a single service, bed it down and do it well. Then you can build on this and add products or services.

Lesson #3: Set customer expectations early – and stick to them!

Don’t be afraid to set expectations for delivery, services and prices early. Don’t back down. People who want your products or services just want a clear understanding of when and how they will be delivered. Then make sure you actually deliver what you say, when you say you will. This is the most important lesson.

"The customer is always right but not always nice."

Lesson #4: Make it easy for customers

Easy to contact you, ask questions and, most importantly, purchase. Payments also need to be quick, easy, professional and seamless. Don’t go for the cheap payment options like Paypal only or direct deposit. Make it professional, quick and easy to purchase. Our favourite program for this is Stripe.

Lesson #5: It doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen

Be patient. Very few start-up businesses are overnight successes. Plus don’t forget that people have to find you and word of mouth takes time. Concentrate on how best to get your products or services out in the market and how you can help people. If they need you, they will find you.

Lesson 6: Online businesses are not ‘set and forget’!

You need to constantly work on your website. You cannot let it look outdated. It needs regular content added and should reflect your most current goods and services. Content creation is important for rankings and engaging customers. If customers visit your website and you have not updated the content or blog in some time, they may wonder if you are still in business!

Lesson #7: Don’t be phased by copycats

If you have a great idea, someone will always try to copy you. Just concentrate on delivering the best products and services you can. Put your head down and don’t worry about the competition as it may overwhelm you. Reputation always wins out and you need to run your own race.

Lesson #8: Do not let customers rule your business

The customer is always right but not always nice. Feel free to fire your customer if they may be detrimental to your business. Do not promise the world to the exclusion of other customers or other parts of your business or customers will suffer.

Lesson #9: Learn BEFORE you start up

Do the reading, learn basic internet language (SEO, Google AdWords, social media marketing, blogger outreach), what your options are for spending your marketing and other dollars and how to run and do basic website changes. At the very minimum! It will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Lesson #10: Don’t be scared to pivot

After you are open for business for a while, you may find you are in demand for one type of product or service and it is quickly becoming your focus and time grabber. You may have been going in another direction entirely. But don’t be afraid to pivot and change your strategy and business focus to match the demand you never guessed. The need to be adaptable and flexible can be a very lucrative resource for your business.

These lessons came as a surprise and I couldn’t have guessed them before starting my own online business.

Would love to know what the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your years of online business? What can you add to the list?

Vanessa Emilio

is a Practice Director, Lawyer, Founder and CEO of Legal123.com.au, a legal website business with easy-to-use, inexpensive legal templates, forms and agreements for everyday Australians as well as lots of useful information.


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