Next time they tell you it takes 6 months to build an online business, read this.
I’m at the end of my online coaching session when I hear a faint cry in the background. My 3-year-old is awake from her nap, which means the workday is over.
My eyes dart at the clock and I count how long she’s napped (not long enough). My mind is busy making a to-do list for the next day, adding the loose ends, hoping for a magical 3-hour nap tomorrow.
I pick her up from her crib and we have a little snuggle time in front of the computer screen as I close all those websites that I won’t have time to check out today. An hour later, I pack her in the car and drive to pick up my 5-year-old from school.
These days I have to be creative about the time I spend writing, coaching and connecting with people online. I feel groggy and guilty. My new product launch might have to wait a few more months.
How long does it take?
The first question a client asks me in a coaching session is how long it will take her to build a teaching business online. We all hope to hear that it’s not going to take that long, that it’s not going to be too hard and in a matter of a few months we’ll be able to generate enough passive income to successfully retire.
Our dreams and desires are often formed by corporate business professionals who retired from their stressful 80-hour work weeks, cashed in their generous pensions, hired coaches and brand strategists who weaved their stories and targeted them at us. They teach us a free webinar, give a synopsis of their story, and soon we are convinced that their story can be ours.
We believe that it’s going to take us 6 months, and we are determined we will witness the same transformation. Just like seeing a gorgeous outfit in a shopping window makes us believe that we’ll look just as good in it, we run inside, put it on, and buy without considering that it might not be our color or the cut isn’t our favorite, or the size doesn’t fit all.
So when new clients ask me how long it’s going to take them, I give a longer answer, which may not sound as seamless as a glorious shopping window display. Quite the opposite: I turn the outfit inside out and add some context to what’s on the surface.
Pick a number and multiply it by 3.
The most uneducated estimation calculation is to take your desired timeline and multiply it by 3. In my 8 years of running an online teaching business online, I’ve found it to be consistently on point.
For instance, some think it will take them about a year to go from a zero-people audience, to a passive and active income streams, which might include an online course and a number of 1:1 clients.
If they multiply it by 3, they will have a much more realistic picture, especially considering a low level of investment, family matters, and constant hustle due to money constraints (few online teachers can bank on a generous pension or savings fund that they can cash while they’re building a business).
Pick a number (of offers) and divide it by 3.
Because the people who teach us about marketing have a completely different “shopping window” story, we dream of building a business with “a couple” of online courses, “a dozen” of affiliate products, “several” books on amazon and “about 10” 1:1 clients.
We think we can be on youtube and twitter, facebook and something else, not realizing that each channel will take time and work to build. We dream of multiple brands and several businesses working on an autopilot within 5 years.
What I found helpful is to inspire people to “take away,” not add to their vision as their businesses grow and expand. In the age of simplifying lifestyles, decluttering closets and downsizing, online business owners must learn to do the same:
- create more “white space” for creativity
- focus on what works and shed what doesn’t
- grow one brand and dig deeper into one message
- save people from information overload
- move people to action, one step at a time.
“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
So take the number of projects you wish to work on and divide them by three. It’s smarter, leaner and better for the environment (your life).
Start small (and it’s OK to stay small).
Last weekend I had 2 interesting conversations with people running completely different (local) businesses. One said, “I chose to be small because my priority at the time was to spend more time with my daughters.”
The other person shared, “I couldn’t wait to grow really big and fancy, after all, that’s what they tell you. But then when my business grew, I was the most miserable person.”
Even though as online teachers we build online businesses and sometimes turn them into brands, we cannot compare ourselves with corporate giants and mimic their strategies. What takes them a few weeks will take one person a couple of years because of financial and creative constraints.
So the only way for a small online teaching business to grow is to recognize its advantage of being small, appreciate it for what it is and keep that benefit as top priority. You will soon discover that numerical growth isn’t as satisfying as the impact only you can make on the lives of those who work with you.
You don’t need to build an empire just because someone tells you should. Your audience may appreciate that you’re approachable and available.
“.. anyone who has built anything worth anything in life has lived in a small, consistent, hard, ugly, grueling, confusing, wonderful place before. And not just for a day. Wake up every single day and do the small, consistent things if you want to win in life.” Regina Anaegionu.
Embrace your journey.
You might have kids or aging parents. You might not have 12 hours a day to dedicate to your business. You may have a serious health condition so working has to be limited.
Embrace this journey. You’re on a discovery trail. An online teaching business is a lifestyle business after all, and your life is a longer journey with unexpected twists and turns. Why should your business be any different?
So walk away from the computer. Hug your child. Share stories with your loved ones. Treasure the gift your business has given you — a new journey to self-discovery. Unbusy yourself from distractions and declutter your mind from endless information flow.
It takes as long as it takes. As you make your small steps daily, take time to celebrate victories, share your discoveries, sleep well and wake up to a new and exciting day.