Online Business:  The Easy Button

Online Business: The Easy Button

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Online Business The Easy Button

Not everyone is a born entrepreneur.  I don’t know if it is something that’s in your genes.  But I know some people are more natural entrepreneurs than others.

Yet if you look on the internet these past few years, all you hear is that it’s easy to build an online business.  Just come up with a concept, build a website, drive people to it and make money.

Like at Staples®, it’s an Easy Button.

Well, the Easy Button isn’t as easy as you think.

And this article will make some of my readers uncomfortable.

Take this scenario:

Marilyn’s husband Pete had been the breadwinner from the time she gave up her Human Resources job to have kids.  And four months ago, Pete was let go from his job and hasn’t been able to find something else in this tough economy.

They had saved, but those savings are getting eaten up rapidly by their living expenses.  And, yes, they’re being careful.

So, individually or together, they need to find a solution to the lousy job market.  Maybe they’ll start an online business.

Or here’s another:

Marcella’s been divorced for a number of years and, with the child support she was getting, she could make ends meet.  Now her daughter Tina is over 21, so that extra money’s no longer there each month.  

These past few years Marcella has gotten more and more interested in personal development.  She’s been reading books forever, starting back with A Course in Miracles, and has invested in virtually every related conference that comes to the Seattle area.

At the last conference she attended, her friend Sue said, “Marcella, you could be teaching this stuff!  Why don’t you put up a website and start building a business around all you know?”

“You’re right, Sue.  I’ll look online and see if there are some courses I could take on how to build an online business.”

Two factors have led to what looks like the California Gold Rush of 1849 … masses of people rushing to build businesses on the internet.

First, the apparent barriers to entry look so low.  After all, all you need is a domain name, a hosting account, an idea and a website.  Second, so many of those selling “how to build an online business” say it’s so easy.

I see two problems:

Number One, regardless what you call it, it’s a business.  It just happens to use the internet as one of its marketing tools.  But it still requires a winning concept, a plan, a budget, a learning curve and all the elements of traditional business.

Let’s compare an online business to a brick-and-mortar t-shirt printing business.  For the latter, you’d rent a space on Main Street, fix up the inside, bring in silk-screening equipment and learn to use it.  The UPS man would bring the blank shirts you ordered, you’d find customers to order them, you’d print them and the UPS man would come pick them up to deliver to your customers.

In relative terms, in an online business, you’d rent a space on the internet (hosting), fix up the inside (your website), bring in equipment and learn to use it (Word Press, social media, graphics, SEO, etc.).  But to have an online product to sell, you’d not just print the pre-made t-shirts.

You’d have to start at the beginning:  till the soil.  Then grow the cotton.  And spin the yarn.  Then weave the fabric.  And finally make the actual shirt.  In online terms, that means first finding out what your potential clients want.  Then coming up with a solid idea.  Then learning to write effective copy.  Then generating the content and writing the sales materials.  And eventually pulling the actual products together to sell.

Because, unless you’re running an affiliate business online where you’re selling other people’s products, that’s what you’re going to have to do to have something viable to sell.  Plus all the normal tasks of marketing, accounting, customer service, etc.

And Number Two, starting and running any business requires certain skills not typically developed when working for others.

It requires entrepreneurial skills.  That means being a self-starter.  It means not just being focused, but knowing the critical path to get from bright idea to successful enterprise.  Knowing what’s important and what’s not.  And it means knowing how all the parts fit into the whole.

Some people are born entrepreneurs.  Others absorb the entrepreneurial spirit and necessary skills by osmosis, working for other effective entrepreneurs.  And, lastly, some learn through conscious training with a genuine, capable mentor.

But none of it comes from an Easy Button.

And it pains me to see the masses of people floundering in online businesses that do nothing but drain precious time and even more precious monetary resources, month after month, without any return.

The economic downturn has put so many good, caring people in the vulnerable position of having to be what they are not … entrepreneurs … in hopes of providing for themselves and for their families.

The big question is how one decides if the efforts are actually going to result in a successful business or not.  When is it time to stop investing?  When is it time to accept that it’s not as easy-peasy as it’s made out to be … and the one making the greatest amount of money is the one selling the Easy Button?

I don’t know the answer.  It’s different for everyone.  But I do know that the question has to be asked.

Go ahead, sound off at me in the comments if you don’t agree.  I hope you can tell me that I’m wrong.


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers are shared in her posts, articles and an upcoming book. Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • Lisawellsauthor

    Great article. As a romance author, I know a lot of authors are self-publishing because of the ease of “starting a business” on line. With the popularity of e-readers, there is a great market for the service they’re selling. I can see how it would be a lot harder in other areas to start an on-line business.

    Lisa Wells

    • SharonODay

      Lisa, that’s one of the new technologies that make the internet so appealing.  And those who succeed bring to that technology their existing skills, experience, etc.  They don’t arrive cold.  They’ve made their investment elsewhere, in another form, but they’ve made one.  Good luck with your new site!

  • Totally agree Sharon! I applaud you for voicing what so many are thinking and feeling! I too see this in my work with families, especially single moms. I get equally frustrated by the ‘hook’ used to keep them on the hook of blindly pouring more resources into the pit…which is when one does ask the question you posed they are accused of having a ‘poverty mindset’! Don’t get me wrong, I am a 100% believer in the power of a positive mindset, however, being aware of the big picture from the start is just plain common sense! Thanks for sharing your insights. I am sure you will have ruffled a few feathers of those who are selling the easy button!!:)

    • SharonODay

      Denny, as you know, this article was born out of a conversation we had.  I haven’t had any public criticism yet, but I have felt a jab or two elsewhere.  We each choose how well we want to sleep at night.  I want to sleep like a baby!

  • Hi Sharon…I have to step to the plate with you and say ‘You Have Hit A Homerun’! An ‘Online Business’ is a business and there is no ‘Easy Button’! Thank you for sharing…Hughie 🙂

    • SharonODay

      Thanks for the support, Hughie.  I thought I’d get more flak by writing this.  Hopefully some who have NOT commented have gone off and thought a little deeper about the time and effort they’ll need to really reach success … and then rerouted their course!

  • Sharon, you make such excellent points here. It IS a lot of work to start a business, any business, whether online or offline. I think a big problem is that if people wait until they need the money to start the business, it is almost too late. It’s really best to start one while still working a regular job, or in the case of the woman who lost child support — she knew that time was coming since it had a specific date attached to to it. I’m not putting her down for not starting it sooner, because she didn’t likely know how hard it would be. But the reality is the time commitment, and how you really can’t afford to wait until you need the money. You need to start months, if not years in advance of truly needing income from the online business. 

    • SharonODay

      Rebecca, it’s hard to blame the people who stumble upon the internet, see all the promises and allow their wishful thinking to tint their common sense a little.  For some, it’s grabbing at a perceived lifeline.  That’s why I wrote the article.  I wasn’t trying to be negative.  Just realistic.

  • As always, you nailed it Sharon. Seems the only people making a killing online are the ones telling everyone else how it easy it is to do it. Lots of snake oil being sold online these days. Building a business online is anything but easy.

  • Carol Giambri

    Sharon, Great article. Even attending a free webinar is a business to the “sale” of a product. Now I am more careful how my dollars get spent in free and “easy.” It is easy to click and ends up as a “buy it NOW” type of deal of the day. Temptations are winding down here, but still business is still business online or off when selling a product or service. Glad are still “some” genuine, capable mentors out there. I found several I “ouched” dollars too.

  • Buyers beware. Thank you Sharon for shining a light on this. You are right. This type of business is very challenging and it looks deceptively simple. I hope many will read this post and take it to heart.

  • Sharon, you told the truth in everything you wrote, even if it tasted like the salt pinch before the swig of tequila! In fact, the vast majority of online efforts remain small and insignificant, sales lag, and energy drops. It was always thus, but especially now as folks are misled that it is, as you say, easy peasy!

    • SharonODay

      Diane, you know on how many fronts you’ve had to push your business in order to get some traction.  Most people see “Pay $197, 1-2-3 push the button … and voilà!” and know it’s too good to be true.  Others just see the “voilà!”

  • This is my favorite post!  Well doe Sharon, thank you for your ideas!

    • SharonODay

      Thanks, MarVeena.  I know you get the concept!

  • Lisa Carter

    Very well said!  Everyone seems to be looking for a way to run their business, life, etc. without putting in any effort or the time necessary to do things right.  

    • SharonODay

      You got it, Lisa!  You pretty much get out of it what you put into it … whatever “it” is!

  • A much needed reality check for many would be online overnight successes! Thanks for putting it out there.

  • Angela

    Sharon you have it right!  Most people assume because it’s an online business and may not require a lot of capital to start that it is easy.  Truth is, it requires time, energy, passion, and a great concept!  

    • SharonODay

      Angela, nothing happens in business without an investment of some type.  It may not always look exactly the same, but the investment is there …

  • Awesome!  Do you know Brandon Burchard?  I just attended a four day seminar on online marketing so your article rings true.  I am thinking about online marketing in a whole new light and I am excited to now have some tools to implement my new strategy.

    • SharonODay

      Dorien, I’ve followed Brendon for quite some time, attended Experts Academy, bought Total Product Blueprint, etc.  I think he’s one of two or three in the industry who bring a stellar level of professionalism, integrity and pure business common sense.  You’re on the right track!

  • I love this and no it’s a while new ball game running your own business!! 

    • SharonODay

      Yes, it IS a whole new ballgame, but you’d be surprised how many people think it something they can just throw together!

  • Sharon, this article needed to be voiced! You have brought up timely wisdom. It is a bit like the Gold Rush days and many of us stand to lose everything if we aren’t properly prepared. I look forward to hearing more on this!

    • SharonODay

      Sue, we’ve both watched some people do extremely well online.  And we’ve watched many more flounder.  Some drop off and others hang on.  I just wanted to suggest that we each need to make conscious decisions about the time, energy and money we invest … factoring in if the other skills and potential are there.

  • Thea

    Wise words Sharon! Of course there’s the occasional exception, but for the majority of people out there – this is a bitter (but true!) pill to swallow. But I’m a lover of truth, so keep it coming 🙂

    • SharonODay

      Thea, I believe that in your work you see a lot of people just starting up.  I’m curious if, based on your experience, you’ve figure out a system that hints at who will succeed and who won’t.  Do share!

  • Love it Sharon! There is always an investment (at times a lot) behind  every online business, which many don’t see and believe that there is The Easy Button for online business… Well it is awesome that there are also people like you, who say the truth and so help others from pouring money down the drain. Good job! 🙂

    • SharonODay

      That investment decision is so personal, Solvita.  But what’s so important is for start-ups to have an idea of the truth … what it really takes in terms of time, money … and preparation … to succeed.

  • You know, I teach people how to be successful online and one of the biggest misconceptions I see is that they can do it with no money.  Seriously, you need capital for your online biz, just like your brick and mortar biz.  While I don’t think it’s necessarily hard to have an online business, there IS a learning curve.  Until you get all the pieces in place, your income will be very small or nil.  To overcome that harsh learning curve, I always recommend hiring a good coach that can tell you exactly, step-by-step what to do.  Otherwise, you’re in for a long ride!

    • SharonODay

      Martha, one of my mentors differentiates between Business Owners and Hobby Owners.  Hobby Owners are the ones who either lack the seriousness, the resources or the skills … and aren’t willing (or able) to pay to obtain the last two.  I know you’ve seen that …

  • Great article Sharon! I agree completely with what you write, and with what Martha says in her comment about having to get all the pieces put into the right places. The low barriers to entry don’t mean a thing if you don’t have the focus and dedication to actually run a business.

    • SharonODay

      Low barriers, Helena?  I’ve seen people tout that you need less than $30 to get going … $10 to register your domain, $6 for hosting, etc., and the rest is available for free.  “Oh, but I do have this magic program that opens the income tap for you …”

  • This was an excellent post, Sharon. You speak the truth…having an online business is more complicated than it looks. It’s so important to choose to start an online business for all the right reasons.  Finding a coach or mentor makes all the difference in the world. But a wise person once told me that when your work on a business you work on yourself. And sometimes that’s an even bigger hurdle.

    • SharonODay

      Lisa, you’re absolutely right!  How many coaches find that they’re not just helping someone get the business started, but also working on mindset issues that creep up as the real barriers!

  • Sue

    Great article Sharon.    Have learned enough the last couple of years to realize there is no EASY BUTTON.  Thanks for putting the truth out there!

    • SharonODay

      Just curious, Sue.  Did you start with the idea that it was easy, and then find the perseverance to overcome the obstacles?  If so, would you have started if you knew then what you know now?

  • Very good post.  All the lessons learned over the years.  People tend not to listen, though, do they?  LOL

    • SharonODay

      As humans we’re stubborn, Sally.  All too often we need to learn our own lessons, and aren’t willing to learn from others.  Compound that with being confused by getting mixed messages … 😉

  • Hallelujah, amen sister! Finally, someone with the guts (that’s internal fortitude in politically correct grammar) to say it like it is! The unfortunate part is that it has taken many of us years and thousands of dollars to learn what you have just written. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for exposing the money pit called “online, easy button” business. Yes, I’ve learned. Yes, the hard way. If you are reading this now, stop, reread it, listen closely and stop paying all that money to make money the easy way…it doesn’t work. Bring it on Sharon, I want more and there are those out there that deserve to hear the unabridged version of the truth…we both know it, now write it and save them the grief and greenbacks that went with it.

    • SharonODay

      The good news, Carla, is that you’ve found what works for you and where to invest your time and energy.  And, in your case, it’s a combination of offline and online.  But, yes, you’ve been on one helluva roller coaster ride!

  • Spot on Sharon and kudos to you for bring attention to this. I respect women who say it like it is! Online business is a lot more work and more expensive than it looks. I wallowed for a year or two and didn’t make much….hired a coach and have been blessed since…but it doesn’t stop there, I will always have a coach. We have to continue to improve our game! 

    • SharonODay

      One aspect people rarely talk about, Anita, is that the online component of one’s business is constantly changing.  (At speeds far greater than we’re accustomed to offline.)  So someone has to stay on that sharp learning curve at all times:  either the business owner or an outside resource.

  • Brilliant post Sharon. Yes, I have learned enough the last couple of years too to realize there is no EASY BUTTON. I totally agree with Solvite ~ It is great that there are also people like you, who say the truth and so help others from pouring money down the drain! Love reading your articles Sharon.

    • SharonODay

      Anastasiya, as you read the comments made by other readers, you’ll see how often the phrase “couple of years” or “one or two years” pops up.  Hmmm.  Doesn’t sound like an Easy Button, does it?  😉  We’ve all learned valuable lessons …

  • Sondra

    Sharon I tell you the truth, as a 17 year entrepreneur there is certainly a glamour-less side to that no one tells you about or prepares you for. So thank you for having the chutzpah to put it out there and offer those who are considering throwing their entrepreneurial hats in the ring, a little food for thought.

    • SharonODay

      Especially in the early stages, we entrepreneurs find ourselves doing some  things we’re not so fond of.  But one key to success is very quickly getting to where we’re focusing on what we do BEST, and delegating tasks to others that are NOT our strengths.  Otherwise, mediocrity reigns!

  • Great article Sharon … how very true .. I think building an online business can have simple steps, but it’s not easy – if that makes sense? A good coach is always what has helped me move forward 🙂

    • SharonODay

      Isn’t it interesting, Tracey, how “coach-intensive” the online business space is.  Think about offline businesses.  Why do you think fewer people have “coaches” to start those businesses?  I think you made my point!  😉  

  • This is such important information. It is definitely not as easy as “build it and they will come.” You need to do your homework and have a plan before starting any kind of business anywhere.  You need to recognize also that it takes time and really hard work to grow a successful and profitable business. Thank you for telling it like it is when so many others are out peddling a bill of goods about how easy online entrepreneurship is. Excellent article, Sharon.

    • SharonODay

      Business is business, Marie.  I was lured in the beginning into thinking
      I needed to be shown how to do “online business.”  Eventually I
      realized that my decades of building businesses was my true foundation. 
      What I needed was orientation in whatever was specific to online marketing tools and to the technological bits.  Harrumph!  😉

  • You are so right on about having an internet business.  There is a huge learning curve along with being willing to do the proper steps in order to be successful in whatever your market is.  Great post and yes, it did need to be said.