• Annette Marquis

3 Keys to Launching an Online Business

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

Launching a new business is scary. Knot-in-the-stomach-sweaty-palms-dry-mouth scary. I know because I’m now three days into it and my uncertainties gnaw at me even as I sleep:

  • What if I build it and no one comes?

  • What if it’s a stupid idea?

  • What if I can’t attend to it adequately with all my other commitments?

  • What if the community wants things I can’t offer?

  • What if I get bored?

Those are just a few of the “what-ifs” that have been swirling around in my head.

Building a brand and a community that supports it is not for the weak-willed or easily intimidated. There is so much to learn, so much to do, so many details. What I’ve learned already is enough to fill several books (Hey, that’s an idea! I’ll call them WordsWomen Guides. Watch for more on this later!), and I’ve barely begun.

One of my commitments to myself and you is to share my process, no matter how successful it is, so you can learn along with me. I don’t consider myself an expert. I’m an apprentice who has a lot of knowledge but not a lot of practical experience.

For several years now, I’ve been reading blog posts, listening to podcasts, and reading books by gurus in the business, including:

They’ve taught me about:

  • list building

  • affiliate marketing

  • social media marketing

  • blogging

  • podcasting

  • building a brand

  • search engine optimization (SEO)

  • finding sponsors

  • creating online courses

  • developing websites

  • converting website traffic

  • lead magnets

  • targeted advertising

Now is the time to put all this learning into practice! And I didn’t even mention email newsletters, guest blogging, webinars, launch sequences, digital products, and on and on and on. My head hurts just imagining how much I’ve already forgotten.

Oh, and that knot-in-the-stomach thing? I get it whenever I think about all the things I do remember that I’ve already skipped as I’ve launched Wandering WordsWomen.

My primary goals for Wandering WordsWomen are to:

  • do the best I can to serve you

  • make some money in the process, and

  • have fun doing it.

If I can keep these goals front and center, then in the words of the Christian mystic, Julian of Norwich, “All will be well and all will be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

When I think about what I’ve learned in these first few days, three keys stand out:

1. Don’t let perfection get in the way

Wandering WordsWomen is a work in progress. Assuming all goes as planned, it will get stronger, more focused, and more helpful as time goes on. Every website starts somewhere. It’s easy to look at our favorite blog or website years into its development and assume it started out the way it looks whenever we encounter it.

Two or three years from now—OK, maybe five—when Wandering WordsWomen reaches its full potential, I promise to revisit these first few weeks in a blog post so people who are just starting out can see where things were when we opened the doors. Hopefully, it will reassure them that it doesn’t have to be perfect when you launch—however you define perfection.

A couple months ago, I set a launch deadline of Women’s Equality Day, August 26. I missed it. I set a new deadline of “by the end of August.” I missed that one, too. Finally, I pushed myself to launch on September 1st and refused to listen to any more of my own excuses .

When September 1st came, I focused on taking care of minor technical things until I had procrastinated long enough for evening to arrive. During our dinner break, I told my wife that I would be launching right after dinner, ready or not. No sooner had the words left my mouth than a big storm blew in—lightning, thunder, torrential rain, 40-mile-an-hour winds, the whole shebang. Then we heard a loud pop. It had to be a power surge. Wendy ran upstairs to check her computer and then into my office to check mine. Thanks to our surge protectors, both were fine. What wasn’t fine was our internet connection.

No internet = no launch! A moment of relief passed through me. Fortunately, my earlier resolve proved more powerful and began troubleshooting our connection. Thanks to Verizon FIOS’s mobile troubleshooting tool—the best I’ve ever used—it had the internet up and running in only a few minutes.

I know enough about myself to recognize my quest for perfection as the perfect (pun intended) foil for my fears. I could delay for a long time, maybe forever, if I allowed perfection to get in the way. Even though the list of things undone seemed endless, the time to launch had arrived.

When I was about nine years old my brother and I took swimming lessons at our local pool. I did alright with the swimming once I was in the water but I couldn’t or wouldn’t dive. The idea of going head-first into the water terrified me. At the final session, we had to dive into the pool and swim across in order to pass. After much coaxing, the instructor finally gave up and told me to jump in and swim to finish the test. I made it to the other side, but that still meant I failed. I remember it as if it were last week. But I’m not letting that stop me.

I might not be able to dive into a swimming pool, but I can jump into the internet’s unpredictable waters. I just have to keep swimming and all will be well. In this case, the key to staying afloat is understanding my audience, which brings me to the second key.

2. Target an audience you want to serve

It’s a well-known business adage that “the riches are in the niches” (go ahead, Google it and you’ll see what I mean). The temptation is to spread your focus as widely as you can to be of interest to as many people as you can. Get over it. At least that’s what I’ve been told, so that’s what I’m trying to do.

Wandering WordsWomen is focused on women writers who like to travel to beautiful natural places where they feel inspired to write, i.e., outdoor-loving women writers.

Initially, I thought I would narrow my audience even further to women writers who RV, but decided against it, though focusing a fair amount of content in their direction.

I have too many women friends who are writers but who don’t have the RVing bug. They still love hiking, kayaking, biking, or driving through beautiful natural places. They’re inspired by nature, but, for a variety of reasons, aren’t attracted to RVing.

That’s OK. I don’t entirely understand it, but I love them anyway! And I want them in the community I’m forming. They are my people--some would say “my tribe” (although I struggle with whether that language is culturally appropriate, so I won’t be using it again).

In any event, they are the people I want to serve, the community I want to build. Not only can I relate to this audience, I have things to offer that could be useful to them, and they have things to offer me. That’s why I decided to build a community and not just have content flow in one direction.

As time goes on and more women join us, I hope to incorporate additional ways to nurture our community so we can support each other. Moving my audience from passive observers to engaged participants is what I most look forward to, which brings me to my last key.

3. Make it fun and interesting for yourself

I'm thrilled to be launching something I’m passionate about. Wandering WordsWomen pulls together so many of my interests:

  • inspiring my own writing projects

  • building a community of women writers

  • traveling, especially by RV, to beautiful natural places

  • generating online (passive) income and doing all the tech stuff that goes with it

  • learning about and honoring women throughout history who have made a difference

Some people might look at this list and see a bunch of unrelated topics. You can’t develop one website for all these different themes, they’d say. I’m certain, though, that you can see the connections, and if you’re not sure, I’ll be making them more explicit as Wandering WordsWomen progresses.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll challenge me not to take myself too seriously, to enjoy the ride, and trust it will be interesting and valuable to each of you. I also commit to reminding myself how cool it is that we have found each other.

It energizes me to think about those who have already joined my mailing list, liked the Wandering WordsWomen Facebook page, and/or joined the closed Facebook group. If you haven't joined all three, I invite you to do so.

I look forward to hearing from you about what would make this community most valuable.

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