The 3 Stages of Online Business

A lot of people on social media have asked me to write a blog post explaining in greater detail the three (3) different stages of online business as gleaned from my personal experience as a brand strategist and business mentor. 

As you know there are many models created to help empiricalize or illustrate the phases we go through as our online businesses grow.

My version of this process just happens to be one of the simpler ones - it's by no means the be all, end all of anything. 

It's merely a tool to help you figure out where the hell you are, what challenges you face in that particular stage and what your biggest priorities should be. 

Behold! The 3 Stages of Online Business!

The Baby Business

Now the term "baby business" is not meant to patronize you. The term describes the beginning (infant) stage that all business owners must pass through. 

You know you're a baby business when:

  • You've been in business for 0 - 24 months
  • You don't have a website up yet (Facebook page anyone?)
  • You don't know the difference between a blog and a newsletter (or why you may need both)
  • You don't know "how" to put an offer together
  • You have no idea how to put yourself out there
  • You have no idea how to get clients OR even how to find them
  • You belong to a million Facebook groups geared towards entrepreneurship
  • You subscribe to a million more email lists of online business "stars"

Baby business owner challenges: 

Your biggest challenge as a baby business owner is that it's very hard for you to focus on what you need to do, how to get started, and where to do it. 

Baby business owner struggles:

As a baby business owner, you tend to struggle with information overload and decision overwhelm.

You also tend to buy any low-cost, high-promise digital products ("Your first 1,000,000 subscribers for only $10.00 - the Ebook") and the lure of shelling boo- koo bucks for a "shortcut" or a "out of the box" solution to a "ready to go" business is just one precarious PayPal/credit card click away.

Baby business owner priorities:

At this stage, the number one priority of ALL you, baby business owners, is to JUST GET STARTED.

Stockpiling all the info-products of the online world on your desktop OR getting coached to death WILL NOT circumvent the learning curve of making mistakes nor will it replace the experience you need to gain from "doin' the work".

You need to get dirty. You have to know what's like so that you can make better, informed business decisions based on REAL experience later on. You need support more than you need strategy at this point. 

What every baby business owner needs to remember:

The feelings of fear, anxiety, and insecurity you will experience as you descend into the madness that is known as online business ARE TOTALLY NORMAL. *pinky promise*

The Emerging Business

Emerging entrepreneurs / business owners have a little more wear on their tires. Not quite as impressionable as a baby business owner but you folks still feel like there's a lot you don't know about. 

You know you're an emerging business owner when:

  • You've already had success with booking clients or making sales
  • You've chosen your main 2 - 3 social media platforms (you auto-post to the rest)
  • You can tell the difference between a "good" coach and a "bad" coach in terms of service
  • You've already set up some sort of accounting software to keep track of business finances
  • You've spent money on copywriting, graphic design, or on a VA (not necessarily all three)
  • You know what a salespage is
  • You are consistently inconsistent with blogging, posting or sending out your newsletter
  • You have unfollowed fellow business owners due to a raging case of comparisonitis, stupid online drama or due to their political views
  • You don't belong to as many Facebook groups and the groups you still engage in are paid
  • You try not to let email unsubscribes hurt your feelings (but they do anyways)

Emerging business owner challenges: 

Your biggest challenges as an emerging business owner are figuring out your positioning (what makes you different than your competitors and contemporaries) and your pricing.

You will also have to learn how to discern between what's gold, glitter, or gunk when it comes to service providers, clients, coaches, programs, and software. 

Emerging business owner struggles:

As an emerging business owner, you tend to struggle with the compare and despair syndrome. You can be easily swayed to go with the crowd for the sake of feeling like you're on the "right track" or walking the "same path" as everyone else.

Your desire to get this "whole business thing" locked down can cause you to overlook some sketchy characters and misaligned marketing practices in the name of "getting ahead" and "getting it". 

Building momentum and raising your brand's awareness feels too much like a "spray and pray". Keeping to a schedule (blogging, emailing, posting) is still hit and miss. 

Consistent income is another struggle for you emerging types. The "feast or famine" merry-go-round approach appears to be your only strategy for cash flow because - let's face it - you obviously don't have one yet. 

Emerging business owner priorities:

At this stage, the number one priority of you emerging business owners is to get CLEAR ON YOUR BRAND STRATEGY

Having the most beautiful website and even the most gorgeous copy will not help you - unless you are 10000% sure on what your brand hokey pokey is about.

At this stage in your business, it's important that you know and understand HOW to distinguish yourself from your contemporaries and competitors alike. You need structure and straight forward strategy at this point. 

You will now have to do the deep work of discovering what your brand promise, message, and heart is all about.

On a superficial level, just nailing down your voice and point of view will help you cobble together a strategy that's worth a damn. 

What every emerging business owner needs to remember:

It's okay not to know EVERYTHING. It's okay to MISS OUT. It's okay not be EVERYWHERE. It's okay NOT TO BE PERFECT.

Choose to show up as the REAL YOU - not a watered down, zagged-out version of some online, Oprah-approved, Hay House published personality. If you do that, you've already ZIGGED.

The Established Business

Established business owners have hit proverbial (maybe even mythical) milestones in their business. If they survived this far in the game, they're looking to leverage and scale. Which means letting go and delegating. 

You know you're an established business owner when:

  • You consistently make $50K - $100K (minimum range) in revenue a year
  • You'll never launch anything without a plan or strategy
  • You know the value of a strategy and how it impacts your business success
  • You understand what your brand IS and what you REALLY OFFER your market
  • You really are known as the "go-to" for your positioning in your industry
  • You understand the importance of email list building (and KNOW IT'S NOT a fad or even dead)
  • You have a planned out schedule and you follow it religiously (blog, newsletter, posts)
  • Your business is an actual business entity (LLC, S-CORP, LTD, etc)
  • You know that Mercury Retrograde is real
  • You have an engaged community that you engage with
  • You know the best way to hide those dark undereye circles due to your previous launch experiences
  • You know how to say "NO" without hesitation or guilt

Established business owner challenges: 

Your biggest challenges as an established business owner are how to expand / diversify your income streams while maintaining quality and minimizing burnout.

You are also feeling the pressures of figuring out how to stay grounded (not be an a-hole), keepin' an ear on the ground (staying in the know/on trend) and how to get sh*t off the ground (did we mention how you have like a million ideas?). 

Established business owner struggles:

As an established business owner, you tend to struggle with the "curse" of success. You tend to freak out if you don't hit the same high numbers or you may seriously OBSESS about reaching them (yesssssss, my precioussssssss).

Any money mindset issues or hang ups that you haven't resolved at this point tends to come out in full force at this stage. Another level, another devil, they say. So, self-sabotage can be prevalent. 

The tendency to believe that you have to maintain a "success" persona or stay the same is strong in established business owners. You may feel apprehension about sharing your other passions because it may seem "off-brand" or may confuse / alienate your established audience. 

Established business owners are also notorious for being THE bottlenecks to their own growth. Learning to let go and delegate parts of your business makes you feel like a kitten that lost its mitten. It's kinda sad but cute. 

Trust is another biggie for you established business folk. Knowing who to trust with your brand, business and money turns into a fun game of "who do I know that I trust, who knows someone who can be trusted?". And once you FIND someone - you tend to not like to share. #tradesecret

Established business owner priorities:

You guys are so used to being the janitor, the bill collector, the editor and the dog walker - you forget that you need to be the CEO.

Once you get to a certain level in your business, all those other roles you used to occupy can be replaced by someone else. The only one that can't be replaced? You guessed it! YOU as captain of your ship.

So your number one priority is to make sure you are giving yourself the HEAD SPACE to allow for new ideas, dreams and goals to reveal themselves. Daily, weekly, monthly - it doesn't matter. Just make sure you carve out the time. 

What every emerging business owner needs to remember:

Everyone loves to build castles. But not everyone can maintain one. Maintain your castle!

Here's The Next Step:

If you'd like to have all this great information available at your fingertips, then you're in for a treat, because I've got an awesome resource for you. 

It's a free guide containing all the information regarding the 3 stages of online business included in this post along with extra material. 

Click the link below and enter your information to get access to the free guide. 

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How To Define Your Brand

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