Running A Successful Online Business: Why General Tips And Tricks Will Get You Nowhere

As many of you are probably aware, I currently offer a free 6 day mini-course on how to start a niche online store in 5 easy steps. And while my guide is an excellent introduction to the world of ecommerce, by no means does it contain all of the necessary information to run a successful online shop.

Create A Profitable Online StoreWhy am I telling you this? It’s because the other day, one of my readers emailed me to let me know that he had followed all of my directions on how to launch an online store from my free course but wasn’t making any sales. In fact, he even went as far as to blame me for wasting his time and money.

First off, I just want to say that there’s a big difference between “launching” your store versus running a successful one. My free 6 day mini-course is meant to get your feet wet and get you excited about the prospect of starting your own business. But that’s about it.

For those who want additional instruction and want to learn everything there is to know about running an ecommerce store, I also offer a full blown comprehensive course at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.

When I asked if this reader was interested in signing up for my full course, he responded by telling me that he didn’t need formal instruction and that he would simply get by with information he found on the Internet for free. Now if that were the case, then why was he blaming me for the lack of sales?

The reality is that all of the free information on the internet leads people to carry a false sense of confidence in regards to making their business successful. Not only is there a lot of conflicting advice out there, but the information is way too general. If everything were straightforward and cookie cutter, then everyone would be making money online!

Today, I’m going to explain to you why the information you can find for free on the web is of little use when starting an actual business. In fact, I will also go as far as to say that if you launch an online business with just general knowledge that can be found online for free, you will probably fail.

Running A Business Is Like Raising A Child

The best analogy that I can come up with that even compares to starting an online business is raising a child. When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I went out and read every single parenting blog, magazine and advice column that I could find. Not only was I a regular on the parenting forums but I also purchased a series of books on raising children which covered everything from how to sooth a crying baby all the way to how to raise a teenager. Yes, you read that right. I was so gung-ho that I skipped ahead to the teenage years!!!

One of my greatest fears as a new parent was that I would not be able to sooth my daughter and stop her from crying. So as I was doing my research, I focused a lot of my attention on articles which taught me how to calm a new born baby. I read about swaddling. I read about the patented “Happiest Baby On The Block” technique. Hell I even watched a video about how to interpret baby sounds so that I could understand the “language” that my baby would speak. (Incidentally, trying to understand “baby language” is both fun and hilarious. Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward.)

Anyways up until my daughter was born, I felt so confident and cocky that I knew everything there was to know about calming a child that I started to scoff at some of my friends who weren’t sleeping at night because their children wouldn’t stop crying. If only they knew what I knew! If only they had done the impeccable research that I’d done!

My Daughter Is Born And All Hell Breaks Loose

All of my confidence and training went out the window when my little daughter was born. Once we took her home from the hospital, she was absolutely inconsolable. Every night, she would cry uncontrollably and I couldn’t get her to stop. I tried everything that I learned from my vast research. I tried swaddling her. I tried burping her. I tried bouncing her. Nothing worked at all! I tried interpreting her body movements and her “baby language” to no avail. All of my book training went out the window and all I could do was panic.

After 3 sleepless nights, I did what any desperate parent would do. I drove like a madman to Babies R Us and purchased every single baby soothing contraption on the market. The cashiers chuckled behind the cash register as they watched me scramble and grab everything they had on their shelves. MAKE WAY! CLUELESS DAD ON AISLE 5!!!

Despite blowing a large amount of cash, still nothing worked. I was tired, frustrated and all I could think of was that those books were full of s$&^. All of those blogs and forums that I participated in were completely useless in the wake of my newborn daughter! All of that time and training had gone to waste!

Finally in one last act of desperation, my wife and I decided to pay the extra money and went to see a specialist…and she helped us out immediately. By showing us the proper techniques on how to hold our baby girl and how to sooth her first hand really opened our eyes. There was no book that could teach this!! After receiving some more personal instruction, we finally settled on our own unique method of soothing our daughter that no book or website ever mentioned.

It turned out that our daughter liked to be swaddled, inserted into a sling and bounced up and down in a precise cadence that matched the theme song of the 80′s cartoon “The Gummy Bears”. Go figure!

What Does This Have To Do With Online Business?

So what is the point of telling you my crazy newborn story? It’s to illustrate that like raising a child, every business is different. Even though there’s a lot of free general information out there, there are many subtleties to running a business that can only be learned through experience and guidance. Just because you read about something online does not mean that you’ll know how to apply it correctly.

After all, when was the last time you read a generic business book or blog post and found that all of the material exactly applied to your business? Every business is going to be different and every business will face its own unique set of obstacles. That is why when it comes to running a business, general information is not enough!

So why do so many would be entrepreneurs invest large amounts of money and time on a business based on general information they’ve found online for free? Why do so many people place such large bets on conceptual knowledge they read about from a book or blog post? The truth is that this is the wrong way to go about it.

The right way is to get formal training and advice tailored specifically to the type of business you want to start. It’s amazing what a difference it makes to have someone who is experienced show you all of the ropes. It will save you time, money and a lot of heart ache.

Formal Training Tailored To You

So why am I telling you all of this? If you are interested in dipping your toe in the world of ecommerce, then take my free mini course. But if you want to learn the ins and outs of running a successful online store, you need to checkout my course on how to create a profitable online store.

In addition to the course materials and over 35 hours of video that you’ll receive, you’ll have access to my expertise. I will be here to answer your emails and I will hold weekly office hours where you can ask me specific questions that pertain directly to your business. And since I run an online store of my own, it is my job to stay on top of the latest ecommerce trends.

As I mentioned above, every business venture is different so why waste time wading through tons of generic info that might not apply to you? Do you want to struggle through many sleepless nights with your business? Or would you rather find someone who can actually help. The choice is up to you.

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

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25 thoughts on “Running A Successful Online Business: Why General Tips And Tricks Will Get You Nowhere”

  1. You know, this always kind of bugs me when someone blames a fellow for giving out some free information and advice, then it doesn’t work, and you take the heat for it. Are they frustrated with things? Probably. But let’s get real.

    First of all, it was free. Second, you have to think for yourself to a great degree in this life. Learn from others, make your own decisions, take action, learn some more, and adjust if necessary. Repeat until successful. And three, you better work your butt off, not for a few weeks or a few months. Commit to it for a good year or more and see how things go.

    People seem to think internet businesses are somehow different than starting any other kind of business in the “real world”. Of course there are differences, but at the core, they all need to be run like a business. Not a hobby, not a money making scheme, etc.

    As you note, launching a store isn’t all that hard to do. Running it and making good money from it is a different story. And unfortunately, this guy doesn’t have the mindset yet to succeed. He won’t until he quits blaming everyone else for his lack of success and starts taking responsibility for his own results.

    1. Hey Mark,
      It bugged me too. But the reality of blogging is that I get both good and bad emails. Even though I try to be helpful and uncontroversial, I’ve received my share of hate mail. There are just some people out there that have nothing better to do but troll and they just want something handed to them on a silver platter.

  2. Larry says:

    That reader needs to get a clue. I hate when people blame everyone for their failures except for themselves. On a lighter note, I enjoyed your baby story. The exact same thing happened to me and I ended up buying every swing/bouncer in the store and returned what didn’t work. Good times…

    1. Hey Larry,
      What’s funny was that I wasn’t the only parent in the store looking at these things and I got upsold a bunch of other items as well. There’s a desperate sucker born every minute. I ended up giving away most of the stuff I bought.

  3. I have a master’s degree from the School of Hard Knocks in running an online business. I spent thousands of dollars buying and reading ebooks, books, a video, and courses about selling online and SEO.

    Even though I was not getting rich from my first website I used the valuable experience that I was gaining from learning how to run my online business and by testing new ideas.

    I feel that the experience that I gained in marketing, SEO and creating a website using HTML was invaluable. I still use that knowledge to this day. The knowledge that I obtained is something that nobody can take away from me.

    1. Hey Jim
      Haven’t heard from you since the Etsy article:) Had no idea that you were doing website critiques as well on the side as well. How has that been going for you?

      1. Steve,

        I have been doing website critiques professionally for three or four years. The bad economy has slowed my critique business down. I think that as the economy picks up so will my website critique business.

      2. Steve, I have been critiquing websites professionally for three or four years. The bad economy has slowed down my critique business. I believe that my critique business will pick up as the economy improves.

  4. It’s ridiculous for someone to blame you if their business doesn’t fly. Even seasoned business-people who know what they are doing have business failures. A newbie can’t expect to succeed overnight.
    On the other hand, I do think that people like us who are promoting ways to make money online need to be extremely careful about not misleading our readers. It’s so easy to tell them them exactly what I did and let them infer from this that if they do the exact same thing, they will also succeed.
    Not so!
    There are so many factors involved in success.
    That said, I’ve been reading your blog for years, Steve, and always thought you provide a balanced, realistic perspective on e-commerce. If people are looking for money-making hype, I’m not sure why they would be hanging around this blog.
    There is much more of it elsewhere.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks Naomi for the kind words and for leaving a comment! Promoting your own info products definitely requires a balance between reality and sensationalism. I’m pretty sure that this reader was someone who just happened to stop by and sign up for my newsletter. Definitely not a long time reader.

  5. I love the baby analogy. In fact, I think we have a few business for dummy type books collecting dust right along side our collection of “What to Expect” books. It also seems there are plenty of “experts” in both fields who’re more than willing to tell you how they would’ve done it differently.

    1. I still have all of those parenting books sitting on the shelves and many of them contradict each other.

  6. well the fact is we need to start and adjust accordingly even with all the preparations. sometimes we even need to go back to the basics and see what’s wrong, eventhough you might think you already knew the basics!

    i’m sure you are not the only person he blamed, since there are many information available online ;)

    1. Hey Jenny,
      I actually did make an attempt to help this reader out a little bit but he was not looking for advice. Instead, he was looking for someone to blame and I was the lucky recipient.

  7. Susanne says:

    The easy way out is to blame others for your failure. Steve, your information gor me thinking about what it would take to do what you are doing. I am clearing my calendar at the end of next month to devote to taking the next step in starting an online business. I am re-reading your material from the free course so that I can get a better understanding of what I need to do. even then, I am not fooled in the least that that is all I would need to do to start a business online.
    Too bad people are looking for a “quick fix” and when that doesn’t come about, they want to blame someone for it.
    Keep up the great posts Steve! I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to share your knowledge!

    1. Hey Susanne. Good to hear! Let me know when get started and feel free to ask me any questions you might have.

  8. To use a “food” themed analogy, this situation reminds me of the taste testing sessions at the local supermarket. You might get a shot glass sized serving of orange juice and a bite sized piece of garlic bread or similar; hardly a meal… but then nobody expects to get a meal out of it… yet on the Internet people expect to get not just any meal but a “three course feast” for free.

    I guess the misconception has come from the nature of the Internet giving us freedom to search for information and express ourselves, with the word “free” being associated with freedom. So there is an expectation of getting everything needed for free. Obviously not the case!

    Mini courses, e-books and free reports are only ever meant to be the appetizers!

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  10. I can’t agree more with the tips you mentioned above. It is funny how many people I see in this business who are just in it for the money. Although running a successful online business needs money to stay afloat, if you are passionate about it, and you chose a niche that has money being spent in it, the money will come.

  11. Blaming others for one’s own failings is pretty immature. Success in any endeavor requires more than reading the tips an tricks associated with a business.
    The way to go is to educate, understand and implement the knowledge and skills required.
    http://goo.gl/S0Wmq

  12. MNW says:

    Hi Steve

    I think you highlighted an essential difference between setting up an online store and running a business. Most people would want to follow your free advice on how to start the online store.

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