Business technology

5 reasons running an online business is harder than I thought

- February 22, 2016 3 MIN READ

Seven years ago, after 16 years of working 60+ hour weeks in the corporate world, I took the leap. I started running an online legal business.

Everyone said I was crazy: friends, colleagues, family. Why would I leave a great and reliable salary, my respected title and position … and why would I do it when I loved my job?

Well, I was craving autonomy. And the flexibility to work the hours and times I wanted. I was a hard worker with a great idea. How hard could it be running an online business?

The answer is: harder than I thought.

1. You are expected to be available 24/7

If you’re running an online business, customers expect you (or someone related to the business) to be available 24/7. They will call, they will demand, they want service NOW!

I receive calls at all hours of the day and night. And weekends. Sometimes it’s for legal advice, sometimes it’s for a template purchase confirmation that’s gone missing (usually into their spam folder) and sometimes they want validation of their business idea. Now!

Unfortunately you cannot screen the telephone calls (because of those times something is genuinely urgent). But you never know whether something is genuinely urgent until you’ve already answered!

2. Customer expectations can be a little … unreasonable

With the growth of the internet, customers expect the best product or service at the cheapest price, delivered yesterday.

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Sometimes a customer has a slower internet so there is a slight delay for receipt of their email products. Sometimes they put in the wrong address details so their products do not reach them. Once a customer even put in his wife’s email details and phoned to yell at us for the fact that he did not know her password. (While he was on the phone, the templates came through and he hung up. Mid-sentence!)

3. Customer emails can be … mean

If a customer walks in a bricks and mortar store, they’re more likely to make an effort to be personable and give you the chance to build some rapport. But it’s easy to be curt in an email. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve taken their bad days out on us, simply because they know they will never meet us!

4. No ‘Out to Lunch’ sign for you!

There is no such thing as a ‘lunch hour’ for you as an online business owner. In fact, this might be your busiest time of the day: when many of your customers are on their lunch break!

5. There are still many regulations to contend with

Both bricks and mortar and online business have to comply with regulations – it is not necessarily easier with an online business. For bricks and mortar businesses, you need ‘slip n fall’ insurance in case someone falls in your store. For online businesses, you need to comply with privacy laws for the details your shopping cart collects from your customers for your purchase. You don’t have to hand a privacy policy to physical shop customers but you do for online shoppers!

Yup, running an online business tests you in so many ways: your self-discipline, communication skills, focus, ability to manage pressure …

So why do I bother running an online business?

The list above may make you think running an online business is not worth the hassle. But I have experienced, and continue to experience some great benefits:

  • Once I decided to jump in ‘feet first’ it was easy to get started with little cost involved (‘sweat equity’ more than anything).
  • I’ve met amazing people I’d have not come across otherwise! Some of them have some fantastic business startup ideas and I am proud to feel part of their now growing businesses.
  • I can work from anywhere in the world (and in PJs if I want!).
  • There is unlimited income potential.
  • I have, and continue to build, a valuable asset

So for all that it’s been harder than I thought, I have no regrets. I have a successful business, a great team to work with and love LOVE my job. I wake up excited every single day to see what’s next, what new customers I’ve attracted and energised to implement new ideas.

If you’re considering starting an online business my advice is this: do your research, prepare … and then JUMP IN with both feet! (And enjoy the ride because while it will be wild, it will also be super-exciting!)

Are you running an online business? Do you feel the rewards easily outweigh the challenges?