Are you thinking of starting an online business and feel overwhelmed about where to start? Are you exploring different business ideas, but not sure which one to choose with so many options available to you these days? Does everything feel very new to you, and you aren’t sure what is next?
You’ll find a lot of advice out there about what steps you should take to start an online business. I’ve been in online business for 7 years, and started Momstyle Your Business just 9 short months ago. I’m going transparent here and sharing the actual steps I took to get this venture off the ground.
Because one thing I can guarantee for you is that building an online business is a messy, organic process. There is no perfect process. It’s more important to simply get started and learn as you go.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, in June of 2015.
#1 – Hosted an In-Person Workshop
It might surprise you that the first thing I did was not build a website or set up an email list or write a blog post. No, the absolute first thing I did was host an in-person workshop.
I was looking for a way to live out my calling to help other moms in business. I felt like digital products were the core of my success over at my first business, and so I started there.
I started with an idea and I experimented. 5 wonderful women attended.
In the workshop, I shared my story. I helped these women brainstorm, define, and plan out their digital product ideas.
I was energized by the experience. But I still felt stuck. This didn’t feel like a business at all yet. Instead, it was simply a way to help other moms. And I didn’t feel called to write blog post articles, and so I was uncertain of how to spread the word. I sat in this space for awhile, uncomfortably. I let my mind roam about with the calling. I felt into different business ideas, from high-end family-friendly business retreats, to local intensives, to setting up an office space with mother-friendly day care, to teaching.
I planned another workshop for the fall and waited. Then something interesting happened.
#2 – A Creative Writing Spark Hit
One day on my morning walk, I felt I absolutely had to write an article about how passive income had changed my life. When I returned home, I feverishly typed the article into a Word document, and then immediately emailed Margaret Rode over at Websites for Good about getting a website set up.
Less than a week later I had a website under the name of Clear Spring Mompreneurs. The website had a basic text logo, an option to sign up to receive notifications of future posts, and provided me with a way to set up new pages and share new blog post content.
#3 – Keep On Writing and Workshopping
New writing ideas kept coming to me, and so I kept on writing. I had an email list of maybe 5 people, then 10. And that included my mom, my virtual assistant, and myself.
But I kept writing, emailing, and sharing my content.
I also hosted a second Digital Product Workshop in September with 6 ladies in attendance. I felt so much more relaxed and confident the second time. I started to see myself doing more of this work.
In this initial month I also created the Build Your Business the Momstyle Way opt-in (it’s a 22-page workbook giving you 10 ideas to grow your online business).
#4 – An Oops and a Name Change
Not a month after the website was set up, I did a little due diligence on the term “mompreneur.” It turns out it’s trademarked. Also, at a mastermind meeting in August, I’d seen first hand that “Clear Spring” meant little to anyone. I realized that if I wanted to get a solid branding foundation in place, I needed to go back to the drawing board around the name.
I decided to host the website under my name. Then one night in a fit of brainstorming and magical ideas, I hit on the term Momstyle. Over and over again, people have told me that I’m creating a lifestyle business. It’s never resonated. I had written “lifestyle” down, but sat there with that same feeling of how it didn’t fit what I was doing. Then I crossed out “lifestyle” and wrote “momstyle.”
All of a sudden, this calling I’d been living and exploring in very quiet ways, became a real thing. It’s like the idea took on a life of its own, because I could see how I wanted to impact others, and the work I wanted to do.
The ever-efficient Margaret Rode had the website updated within a few days. I was off!
#5 – Created a Facebook Group
Now, I had a clearer brand, a website, an opt-in and a loyal, but very small audience of people reading what I wrote. In my business dreams, I began stepping into the bigger space I knew I wanted to play in with this work. The space of reaching a lot of moms and impacting how a lot of women thought about what’s possible when it comes to mothering and working.
I knew I needed to get visible.
In the early days of Bridging the Gap (my first online business), I grew my visibility by sharing posts via LinkedIn groups. This strategy doesn’t work nearly so well these days, and besides, I didn’t think the moms I was targeting spent much time on LinkedIn.
So I decided to focus my initial marketing on Facebook. I signed up for Jordana Jaffe’s Community Love Fest online course and learned the ins and outs of how to set up a group, grow the group, and get engagement.
The Momstyle Your Business Facebook group allowed me to explore this calling in an entirely new way. I was talking to other moms about their businesses, all the time. I was on cloud 9. On the journey of building my own online business I had felt all alone. No longer.
Seeing the questions pop up in the Facebook group also helped me narrow down my focus and figure out my niche. I’d see a question about a website and literally cringe up inside. I’d see a question about passive income strategies and business modeling from a mom with an existing business in place, and my fire would light up because I could see exactly how to help her take the next step.
I paid attention to these cues, and added more and more ideas to my ever-growing list of workshop and product ideas.
#6 – Launched Virtual Digital Product Workshop
Eventually, I realized that if I was going to invest the time I was spending and start helping moms around the world, I’d need to go back to my tried and true model – digital products.
One thing I knew about myself is that I get burned out teaching the same classes again and again. I was already re-tooling my first business to avoid this. I felt empowered to build this business around my strengths the first time. And my strengths means lots and lots of time to create new stuff, and some time to work 1-1 with focused, dedicated individuals who need help pulling it all together.
In December 2015, the Digital Product Workshop went live in its virtual format.
#7 – Hosted a Free Challenge
The new year rolled around. I had a website, a mailing list, a product, and a Facebook group. But growth was still pretty slow. It was time to do something a little bigger than I’d been doing, so I hosted a challenge.
The Facebook group and my email list tripled in size in the matter of a week. Hosting the challenge was fun, but very time-intensive. It was a great way to learn what people really needed from me. I also made my first bit of revenue from my virtual courses, selling 8 copies of the Digital Product Workshop to challenge participants. I left excited and inspired by the possibilities and the work I saw moms ready to do.
#8 – Hosted Marketing Systems Workshop
With the Digital Product Workshop launched in virtual form, it was time to start building the next product. Digital products are the first step to passive income, and online marketing automation is the second piece. When you have a steady stream of new leads to buy your digital product offerings, and a system that reaches out to them in an automated way, then you have truly passive income.
So this is the workshop I built out next. It was another fun Saturday. But then…I got distracted.
#9 – Got Excited about this “Money” Idea
I woke up the Sunday after the Marketing Systems Workshop envisioning a money workshop of some sorts. I realized that all the digital products and marketing systems in the world would not make money for someone who was not ready to receive money, or manage that money in a new way.
This idea did not let go, so I decided to embrace it.
And I went big. And the idea flopped. And by flopped I mean that no one signed up. Not everything you do in business works out. The important thing is to learn and adjust and keep moving forward.
The idea would not let go, so I reworked my plan, scaling back my offering so I could make it more affordable. This very week, I’m putting the finishing details on the 6-Figure Cash Flow System.
#10 – Got a Logo Designed
While I was experimenting with the money idea, I also decided it was time to get a logo designed. I finally felt that I’d be able to communicate my brand well enough to get a logo. This was a fun process and I love how it represents femininity, balance, wealth, and abundance.
Yes, most business owners start here. But yours truly is getting to this step right around month 9. Seriously, not having an official logo as I got started did not impact my business at all. If this is what’s holding you back, I encourage you to let it go.
And this is where you find me today
I’m loving and living in this space of messy, organic growth. Building an online business is an evolution of spirit and creativity, all driven by experimentation. Here’s a snapshot of what I think the future might hold:
- Launching the 6-Figure Cash Flow System.
- Running Facebook ads to enable my message to reach more women.
- Creating and launching a Product Launch product or workshop to help women get their products out into the world and selling.
- Creating and launching the Online Marketing Automation workshop to help women with creating truly passive income.
- ??? because who knows what ideas will pop up as I move through the next 9 months.
Building a business is challenging work, in that it challenges you to step up in new ways, embrace the unexpected, and find new spaces inside yourself to give to others. I love this work. I love helping other women and moms build their businesses. And I’m honored to share this journey with you.
If you are thinking of starting your own online business, my advice is to simply get started. Listen to what’s calling you and take an action that moves you in that direction. Choose action over perfection. Choose starting over staying still. You’ll figure it out along the way, and you’ll learn so much more doing than you will reading, toying around with various ideas, or waiting for the perfect idea.
I’m Laura Brandenburg and I empower you to Momstyle Your Business.
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