If You Had to Start Over Online, What Would You Do Differently?

  • June 26, 2012 by Corbett Barr
  • 86 Comments

It’s time for another ask the readers segment.

We’d love to know: if you had to start over online, what would you do differently?

Think about your experience with growing websites or blogs or anything online. When you look back, what did you do wrong in the beginning? What did you do right? What did you waste time or money on?

How would you do things differently? What would you avoid? What would you spend more time on this go-round?

Share your answer in the comments below.


In our last ask the readers post, we asked: What’s the Most Tired Advice Online?

The two most popular answers were variations of either “follow your passion” or “content is king.”

Here’s one of my favorite comments on “follow your passion” advice from Jade Craven:

It’s not just passion for the topic itself, but passion for the business side of things to. Most people aren’t replacing a job with a business. They are replacing it with a job online, one that may take the joy out of their hobby and require much more hours.

And Paul L. had this gem to say about the “content is king” advice:

Sure…I have this pile of great content and this pile of lousy content lying around and I didn’t know which one to use. But after hearing this wise advice I now know that people want the *good* content and not the crappy content. I never would have figured that out if 517 internet marketing gurus didn’t repeat it over and over again!

In both cases, I don’t think the advice is flawed, it’s just incomplete. Sure, we know we should follow our passion and create epic content, but how do we do that? What else do we need to worry about?

There’s some great discussion on that post (here’s the full set of comments).


Now back to you and this week’s question.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below:

If you had to start over online, what would you do differently?

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Brock Taylor June 26, 2012 at 6:01 am

Super interesting question, and it makes you stop and think for sure.

I would do a slew of things differently.

I wasted 2 years of blogging using the “If you build it, they will come” method. It didn’t work obviously haha. I would have started out with a better strategy, a better focus, and I would do a lot more guest posts and things of the sort to actually get the word out.

I would re-build a site that I pretty much destroyed because I didn’t understand affiliate marketing. I’d take a more conservative approach.

I would learn more before I tried to dive in, but once diving in, I’d resolve to make things happen and commit to it.

Trent June 28, 2012 at 6:56 am

Hey Brock,

Here’s an idea for you. Instead of (or better yet, in addition to) blogging, have you thought about making small software apps (Adobe Air apps or plugins) and then selling those apps via a WSO on the Warrior Forum?

People that I have interviewed typically spend about $500 to build an app and it takes about 2-3 weeks to build it.

To get ideas, they study what is already selling on the forum…which is pretty easy to do if you get a WSO pro subscription for about $4/month. Once you have a handle on what is selling, you can then figure out the type of product that you should make.

For example, anything that helps people with SEO (get traffic, build links) sells like HOT CAKES, so all you would need to do is to have a look at the top selling apps from the last few weeks, and you are going to get a ton of ideas. Then, figure out one or two additional features to add and hire a developer to make it for you.

To find a developer, you could use oDesk, elance, etc… OR (and I like this better), you could go onto meetup.com and join the local wordpress developer meetup. When you do, you will meet all sorts of local coders that will be terrific and making stuff, but they won’t have the first clue about how to sell it. Partner up with one of them, and you’ve now eliminated your up front development cost. Instead, get them to code, and you handle marketing, you then split the profits 50/50.

To get affiliate support (which you will need to ensure sales are decent), I would suggest you give away 75% yo 100% of the front end. If you do that, and your sales page is decent, affiliates will find and promote you. You should have some kind of “back end” offer that will allow you, via the upsell, to generate some actual profit that you can keep a larger percentage of.

What most people don’t understand is that WSOs are for building your list of buyers, so you don’t actually need to make any profits up front (hence why I say to give it away to affiliates to get them to mail for you).

Once you have a buyer on your list, you can EASILY get your money back by either promoting your own products (that you make in the future), or by promoting other people’s products (where you become their affiliate).

This is by far the lowest risk, fastest payback strategy that I’ve ever come across, and I have interviewed many people who’ve tried many different approaches. I have also tried many myself and they all take longer than the “software as a WSO” approach.

Hope it helps!
Trent

Shayna June 26, 2012 at 6:09 am

I would’ve been more specific. I didn’t really believe in the whole “niche it down even further” thing until I launched a general-appeal product that flopped, then made a sub-site w/a more specific product that flourished.

However, I don’t necessarily regret having my main site be more “general,” because it acts as lead generation & email collection for the more specific products.

Ferhat June 26, 2012 at 6:23 am

1.) I totally agree with Shayna. With my last two projects i was getting more specific to my topic and more targeted to my audience. The results were like k… my a… : ) .

2.) I would start only one onlinebusiness in a profitable market and concentrate all my knowledge and power in it. I am sure that one onlinebusiness in the right way can be much more powerful than starting three, four or five onlinebusinesses.

Sergio Felix June 26, 2012 at 6:32 am

I wouldn’t have waited so much time to think I was trustworthy, the “branding” bit practically blinded me for about a year.

It also took me several months to gain enough confidence and start recording my own videos.

Practically I would just DO things right away!

As a side note, I recently joined a quick 4-week training course and I have met people who have never built a site before and they are already trustworthy because they literally jumped straight to video and said something like: “Hi, this is who I am, this is what I’m doing and this is where I’m going”.

It took them -two freaking weeks- to do all of this and they are ready to create their first product now, it’s just insane!

Sergio

Jon Wilburn June 26, 2012 at 7:13 am

Sergio -

I think you hit the nail on head. Just do it, as cliche’ as that is. I just read something this morning: The truest way to know is to do.

Jon

Michelle Sears June 26, 2012 at 6:45 am

I would have chosen a smaller more specific niche. I have a site based on self esteem building which is very general. I never thought it through before launching it. Now it’s been 3 years and I still don’t have very high traffic. But I do have some and I have a descent list of subscribers. I’m at a crossroad – say good-bye to my site and build a more specific niche or keep going with it. Hum…

Adrijus June 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

Do more guestposts and maybe add writers/allow guest contributors to specify topics. That would let you become more engaged in one niche and more time to manage/grow site.

Caz Makepeace June 26, 2012 at 6:51 am

I would have been more diligent with SEO and would have thought more about design and had it sharp, clean and clear from the beginning.

Joel Clough June 26, 2012 at 6:52 am

Pretty sure alot of people will mention starting earlier. I’ve literally read and listened to tonnes of content on internet business, but haven’t actioned anything despite all the encouragement to get started until only just recently.

Also, actively commenting on related blogs in your chosen niche; crucial to getting on everyone’s radar :)

Looking forward to seeing the responses!

jared akers June 26, 2012 at 6:52 am

Do more and analyze less.

For several years I had two different websites (“passion” sites), both targeting specific keywords and utilizing the keywords in their domain names. I then realized that my message was diluted, that the topics were all about me and who I was and had less to do with the keywords and domain names and more about my experience and message to share with the world. So I combined all the content and created one site around myself as the brand. I wish I would have done that from the start.

I’d like to say I wouldn’t have waited so long to create my first product; self-published book. But then it’s all been a learning process and taken me to where I’m supposed to be. So I’m grateful for all of it.

I would have started a podcast sooner.

Spent less money on cheap outsourced articles for back-linking.

Spent more time writing laser focused actionable content.

And at the same time, I wouldn’t have done anything differently as I learned something from all of it.

Oh yeah, I would have started reading ThinkTraffic a lot sooner.

Corbett Barr June 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Hey, I like that last answer ;) Thanks for sharing Jared.

Tom Ross June 26, 2012 at 6:53 am

A little cliched, but I would have started building my email list much earlier. If I had have done I’d easily have 50,000-100,000 emails by now, which is a solid foundation for any online business!

Also, I would have been more consistent with my posting, which became sporadic in my first year of university.

Cristina Ansbjerg June 26, 2012 at 6:56 am

I would have focused on one single thing.
You waste so much energy when you try to follow everybody’s tactics and strategies.
Know what you want to achieve and do one thing at a time until you see results.

Katie June 26, 2012 at 11:26 am

I absolutely agree. I feel like I’ve lost about a year going down that rabbit hole! I’m glad to have my own voice back these days.

Aside from that, the only thing I’d change – I would have started with WordPress instead of Blogger.

Barrie Davenport/Live Bold and Bloom June 26, 2012 at 7:03 am

I would have done a lot more research on how to start a successful site and invested money in a coach or mentor who knew what they were doing. You get so eager to just launch the site, but 99% of the work should be done before you ever launch. You need to make so many decisions about what you want your site to do for you and then make appropriate choices each step of the way to get there. But it’s never too late — I’m doing this work right now (thanks to Corbett’s brilliant advice).

Yvonne Root June 26, 2012 at 7:10 am

My first thought was that I would have done research (concerning online marketing) before I launched. But the truth is, I wouldn’t have known what to ask had I tried that method.

It would be like trying to learn to swim before I had gotten anywhere near the water.

Jumping in, trying, listening to the instructor, trying again, listening and finally being able to stay afloat are all part of the game.

All that being said, there is one thing I wish I’d done before making the leap. Find the perfect target person. Really, we had chosen a person we thought was our target and we used her for all sorts of questions trying to gain insight and so on. Turns out, she wasn’t who we were looking for after all. We made tons of mistakes trying to satisfy an unsatisfiable person.

Jon Wilburn June 26, 2012 at 7:11 am

Cared more about creating relationships with the people stopping by and not viewing them as “numbers” who would make me rich.

I would care more.

mars dorian June 26, 2012 at 7:12 am

Have stronger mission and call to action. I was very confused in the beginning – not knowing how to present myself (and my brand). And it took me MONTHS, if not a full, WHOPPING year to realize that.

Oh well – crash and burn all the way ;)

Kat McBride June 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

Mission and call to action…Yes and yes! I would have made sure there was a clear goal and direction. I’m an artist, and I have floundered for *forever* trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do with the advice I’ve read on branding, traffic, and list-building.

It’s confusing because I have no idea how to package it, so I just ignore that side and keep painting.

Ken June 26, 2012 at 7:19 am

I’m four months into rebuilding my blog as a self-hosted WordPress blog running Standard Theme.

In that short time our blog is already getting the same traffic it took a year to build with the same content in Blogger — c. 700 page views/day and climbing fast.

I should have started as a self-hosted WP blog and use a premium theme.

Sean Mysel June 26, 2012 at 7:21 am

1) let someone knowledgeable do my SEO, just can’t be great at everything and it helps me focus on my golfers and creating epic stuff

2) Started doing more video, sooner instead of writing…way better medium for me to work in

Began doing electronic black board presentations with an HD camera…wow got up on first and second pages within weeks locally after doing so

Thanks Corbett!

Salah Messaoud June 26, 2012 at 7:58 am

I would get a killer design and make a ‘call to action” to join my website and build the biggest community ever, and I would be more consistent with my writing

LindaCaroll June 26, 2012 at 7:59 am

Hey Corbett… I’ve been making my income online for 16 years. If I was to start over (and I’m seriously considering it) I’d put out products from the start. I started with a service business and while it’s done well, I really just built myself a job trading time for money.

I do enjoy what I do, and love the freedom to work my own hours.. grabbing my laptop and working outside in summer – but it’s still trading time for money. That’s what I’d do different.

Shelly Cone June 28, 2012 at 11:08 pm

You are totally right. I have a service business too. Sometimes it’s great because I like what I do, but some clients want all of your time and that totally defeats the purpose of what I was trying to accomplish with my business.

I have a product that sells without any marketing–it’s not a ton of money but it’s nice to see that money show up in Paypal. But my services side takes sooo much effort.

I wish I would’ve been steadfast on focusing on more products in the beginning rather than my services.

Salah Messaoud June 26, 2012 at 8:01 am

My worst fault I didn’t set my goals and let readers to know them, I didn’t present my website the right way and didn’t engage with other bloggers.

Benjamin June 26, 2012 at 8:08 am

I would have paid money to talk to someone that knows their shit about how to create a product that fits with my talents, passions, experience, and my audience.

When I’ve been creating my product, it has felt like there is a huge wall in between me and my first product… and I’m just slowly and inefficiently chipping away at it.

I love adventure, but I would have saved solo product creation for my second offering.

Ricardo June 26, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I will take that advice on board. Just checked your site out. You’ve gained a follower. :)

I’m working on creating content that speaks true to who I am, whilst helping others out. I’ve paid for mentor-style information, so that once I’m more clear on my content strategy I can put my foot on the accelerator.

Craig Morton June 26, 2012 at 8:18 am

I’d spend more time choosing who I hired to help me. There are a lot of snake oil salespeople out there, and in the beginning it’s easy to take a hook just because they have a slick looking website. Rather than read their posts for a week, I’d follow them for a good 1-2 months and then see what I think about them or see what else has caught my eye along the way. Interesting question

Jamie Alexander June 26, 2012 at 8:25 am

I think I’d try and build a business, not follow a system and try and apply it to 100 domain names I bought:(

And I’d not get any advice from forums. I’d follow certain blogs like TT, Social Triggers, Lifestylebusinesspodcast, Foolishadventure, SPI ,,,etc

Shauntelle June 26, 2012 at 9:00 am

The lovely Catherine Just recently shared a piece of advice on her blog that I wish I’d heard earlier in my online career: Keep your eyes on your own paper!

It’s easy to get caught up in comparing your site and your work to everyone else online, but playing the comparison game can easily backfire and just make you crazy. I probably wasted a good year of my time (and ended up burning out on a business that had great potential) trying to keep up with the Joneses and beating myself up because I didn’t have all these amazing projects to tweet about every other minute.

Now I interact with blinders on, to a certain extent and remind myself to keep the eye on my prize and showing up MY BEST.

Lehua December 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I completely agree- well said. I’m months into my first business and it’s so tough to take your eyes off of your mission and compare yourself to everyone else. (Or to listen to everyone else who tells you you’re “crazy,” “going to fail,” etc.)

I had to realize that I have a dream mindchild (as I like to call it) and I need to protect it. Which meant I had to take what others would say and do with a grain of salt. Everyone’s on their own journey, and if I focus on where they’re going instead of where I’M going, well… that won’t end nicely. (Crash and burn.)

With that said, I like how you said “blinders on to a certain extent” because it’s still good to get feedback. It’s just knowing what to filter in and what to keep out.

Love this post. I’m going to be checking out other posts where Corbett asks the audience such engaging questions. It’s so helpful!

Cheers,

Lehua

Dan June 26, 2012 at 9:02 am

I would have started building a list sooner. I had always heard that the money is in the list but just didn’t want to fool with it. I don’t like getting sales emails and I didn’t want to bombard others with them. However, now I know a little better how it works and have experienced how great a list can be.

I would’ve also taken it more serious and gotten into a more profitable niche than I did in the beginning.

Andrew Youderian June 26, 2012 at 9:15 am

I build eCommerce sites, and the #1 thing I would do differently is to spend less time on the site up-front and invest heavily in improvements only once I knew my customer’s wants/needs/desires.

The desire to make your site as wonderful as possible before launch is overwhelming. The only problem is – especially if you’re entering a new market – is that you likely don’t know your customer’s needs very well yet. So building a great site based on what you “think” they’ll want is almost always a waste of time.

In all the markets I’ve entered, I’ve always been surprised what the real problems the customers faced were, and where the majority of demand comes from. With one niche, I spent thousands of dollars investing in the “perfect” site only to realize after launch my site didn’t address a lot of my customer’s problems! So I had to re-do a lot of the site, and much of my initial work was wasted.

Bottom line? Launch quickly and spend a few months getting to know your customers, the market, and what the pain points are. THEN you can heavily invest in a great site that addresses all those problems.

Kris June 26, 2012 at 9:48 am

Without a doubt I would have done the following:

1) Spent less time listening to all the different experts and the different ways to “be successful”. I’m sure there are a million different variations of success, but it all boils down to taking action & learning what works and what doesn’t.

2) Focused on building a “business” rather than a “website”. Small difference between the two words, but big difference between the two concepts.

Leo Dimilo June 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

1.) Network more with people in my market and verticals. (Because referral traffic is the best traffic- It comes presold)

2.) Not treat SEO as the main traffic generating model.

3.)Dial down the social media to 1-2 platforms and focus solely on getting better on them.

Omar June 26, 2012 at 10:28 am

I learned so much about this 5 years in. I would tell this to my son if he were starting out:

1. I would not follow so many “gurus” – unsubscribe for all of them, holding onto one or two I really trust and have faith in.

2. Stop trying to figure stuff out in your head and stop taking too many courses and just take action on whatever comes to mind. Deal with the consequences later. If it works keep going. If it doesn’t, stop.

3. Think more about people and what they want than my own passions. People keep saying follow your passion but that’s not always correct and most people are passionate about a lot of stuff and many people don’t even know what they’re passionate about until they start something out. You can’t know your passion by sitting around thinking. That’s why it’s a little ignorant to keep telling people that.

4. Be confident. Don’t give in to criticism. Don’t let people sway you from what you’re set out to do.

5. Work hard, everyday. Work smart but work hard. See what you want to do like its a job, until you break through. Keep plugging away. But remember rule this next rule below.

6. Set a SHORT-TERM milestone you can measure. If you make it awesome set the next one. If it fails, stop and rethink what you’re doing.

7. Think big. Don’t think small. Believe in ourself But take baby steps towards it. If each baby step works you’re fine. If you want to make a big impact go for it.

8. Don’t ask too many people for their opinions. Just ask yourself inside. Listen to your gut on something. If you deep down inside want to do it, follow through. If not, don’t. If we asked everyone around us for an answer the world would stay the same.

9. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. What do you want to do. What do you want to create?

Marcus June 26, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Omar, your comment was so dead-on I almost didn’t have to write my own. Completely agree.

Graham July 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Omar, which guru’s DID you follow? where did you see the most value?

LeifC June 26, 2012 at 10:55 am

I would do the same thing I did :)

Learned so much by bouncing along the runway before takeoff.
I might have invested just a touch more money, diversified a little more but really. I have no regrets.

If I apply that question thinking ahead.
With my new projects, yes I think I like the idea of getting into one
laser-focused niche that I am crazy passionate about.

It just sounds like more FUN to do and I don’t want to be maintaining 25 sites forever.

I might just have to start thinking about my last great site …..

Great question TT.

Leif

Matt Ragland June 26, 2012 at 11:36 am

I would definitely shell out the money for a self-hosted site and killer theme. Right now I’m battling the 5 months of traffic my old site received, and trying to build up my new site. Quite a pain and not worth saving $100!

JamesW June 26, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Great post Corbett, I would use shortcuts in getting traffic, in promoting business and would start with list right on the beginning,

Paul June 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm

When I started my business, we simply had an informational site.

We taught speed-reading workshops (live, in-person).

Now we have an online speed-reading course and it’s much more popular!

If I had to start over, I would start with an online product offering and then move toward in-person speed-reading classes. The live courses were hard to scale, but the online course is easy to scale and promote.

Marcus June 26, 2012 at 1:26 pm

1) Start sooner. Like many of the people above said, I spent way too much time reading and not acting. Analysis paralysis. I was scared of getting scammed and not looking “pro” enough.

2) Be more confident that I have something worth saying. It was a chicken-and-the-egg problem where I felt like I wouldn’t be credible unless I was already massively successful. But you build credibility by putting yourself out there and actually doing things.

There’s a great mindset-shift I learned from Dave Navarro, The Launch Coach. He said to rank your expertise from 1 to 10. Now focus on teaching people below you. On the flip side, don’t worry about impressing the people above you (waste of time!).

3) Surround yourself with like-minded people with similar goals. This is HUGE. You can’t just rely on family and friends for support. Likely your existing circle of people You need to seek out people who want to do the same kind of thing you’re doing.

I joined and became organizer of an online entrepreneur meetup group. I met an experienced guy who became my accountability partner and mentor. Also participated in mastermind groups and learned a lot. The learning, motivation, and guidance you get from this is priceless.

4) Be smarter about choosing niches. My first few sites failed because I targeted audiences who wanted to save money, not spend money. One was for budget backpackers, the other for using open-source software for creative projects.

5) Find a balance between passion and profit. I keep see-sawing between being pulled to projects I think are fun, but not profitable and other projects that are money-makers but boring. I need to combine ideas so that I can fully invest myself in them.

A great tip from Dan Andrews at The Lifestyle Business Podcast was, “Choose your niche based other people’s passions, but create content based on your passions.” A way I’d re-phrase it as, “Solve business problems with personal passion.” Connect something you like and are good at with a problem that someone will you to fix for them.

Some people might think that as selling out. Fair enough. But sometimes I think passion is something gain afterwards, not start with. If you discovered that doing a new thing was getting you money and recognition, wouldn’t you become passionate about it?

Graham July 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Hey Marcus – Do you have any advice about finding a meetup/mastermind group or mentor/coach?

Duncan August 20, 2012 at 12:06 am

A good place to find a meetup is http://www.Meetup.com. I brushed them off initially but have found that I enjoy them. I also found a guy there that was as passionate about IM’ing as I am and we have now created our first product. So, go to meetups. It is worth it big time….Good luck.

Baker June 26, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I would have only focus on email subscribers. No RSS, No Facebook. I would of had a twitter, but just to share relevant links and connect in a way not done so on the blog. ;)

Kat McBride June 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Maybe this is a silly question but: focus how? I’m ready to cull all of my social media distractions so your comment is very timely and I’m really curious!

Shannon June 29, 2012 at 9:03 pm

@Kat –
Derek Halpern suggests not linking off to things because you need to focus your readers where you want them to go (usually to sign up for an email list). He doesn’t publish the address of his RSS feed (people who know how to use RSS know how to find it), he doesn’t publish his FB page on his site (although it’s very active) and he only links off to his Twitter account on his contact page.

Stanley Lee June 26, 2012 at 3:09 pm

There are a lot of things I would’ve done differently. In fact, I’m in the process of starting over right now. I would focus on building an email list. I’m currently stockpiling as many guest posts as I can to give away useful content, and have them all go live in a short amount of time. I would write posts based on the limited feedback I received (addressing “content is king” criteria), and then use the feedback to guide what I should address next. I’m focusing on giving away as much value as I can in exchange for engagement and interactions. Even though I’ll be blogging as a hobby, there’s not much point of writing publicly if no one reads them.

Liz June 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I’m not even that far in and I’ve already learned a ton. If I had to start over I would have:
1.) Been more selective about my hired help. If you hire cheap VA’s you get cheap service and you end up wasting time and money.
2.) Been more clear about why I was hiring and whether or not the money spent would be worth the return. Specifically in dollars, not in benefits.
3.) I would not have spent $1500 on a website & logo design before validating my product. I would have started with a well-designed template for $60 and then paid for a kick-ass design.
4.) Target niches with products that are more expensive than $10.00. When your Amazon commission for a product is the same as your Adsense commission for a click, you’ve done something wrong…(in my personal inexperienced opinion).

Alan | Life's Too Good June 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Start with Wordpress – I wasted a lot of time creating a Google SItes site believe it or not.

Apart from that not much (hope that doesn’t sound too arrogant) – I still have a long way to go but the internet is so VAST and changing so quickly that I think we all always have a long way to go and as I’ve been learning all of the time, I probably wouldn’t change anything.

I’m still thoroughly enjoying the journey and amazed by what’s possible these days – plus there are so many great examples out there like Corbett, Pat, Derek, Chris, Brian, Darren (if you don’t know the surnames to go with these rock-stars then WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??).

take care & best wishes,
Alan

Laurie June 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm

This is such a great question! I haven’t started a blog yet but I want to. It still seems really overwhelming to me but I’m learning from all the answers here. Thank you!

stefan August 16, 2012 at 11:59 am

Start it! Do it! Now!
You can only learn from mistakes, if you make them. Anything to loose?
Stefan

Evan June 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm

I would have started with a newsletter as well as the blog posts.

Apart from that not much – I needed to just try stuff and learn as I went. I had no real experience of blogging or business so it was a matter of just trying stuff, seeing what worked and trying some more.

Blair de Jong June 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm

More walk and less talk. I spent the past three years wondering and figuring out about how much I could learn about online marketing, blogging and entrepreneurship. Plus, I spent way too much time worrying about the look and feel of the site or the branding or how this WordPress plugin worked or how this tactic worked.

If I had to do it all over again, I would’ve got rid of the shiny toys and focused on content, content, content. Then, I would’ve got this in to the hands of the readers as soon as possible. That way, people can validate what they’re reading hits home with them or not, listen to this feedback and respond back with epic content.

Prerna@The Mom Writes June 26, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Excellent question, Corbett and one that I have been asking myself lately.. If I were to start over online again, I would have focused on building my list right from the start and not 3 (!) years later..

Sarah | Holistic Hot Sauce June 26, 2012 at 8:25 pm

It’s all said above but top points are:

- Focus on the fact that I’m building a business, rather than a blog or web site
- Gotten a little clearer about my true interests and passions and how I could niche down, while integrating them.
- Not waste so much time reading and chasing the experts, reading blog, and chasing links trying to find the magic answer.
- Spend more time creating products and content, and less time reading other blogs

That said , it’s all been a valuable experience. And I’ve built some magnificent relationships. Full speed ahead!

Sandra June 26, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I would use a mind map to brainstorm my short term and long term goals. Working my way backwards from what I want to have achieved in a years time from now, 6 months and 1 month from now.

Having this visual cue really helps to put your project into context with other work or personal commitments in your life. Especially if you also put a reward reminder on your calendar like a weekend away to motivate you to get things done by then.

I’d make a conscious decision how many hours I’d want to spend on my online business.

I’d schedule 2 hour chunks to different important recurring tasks and put them in my calendar. During those times I’d use an egg timer (free online tool, counting down on your screen) to stay focused. When the time is over I’d force myself not to carry on with the same task.

That way you can boost your productivity, and it’s easier to call it a day in the evenings or at the weekends.

If you just work at whatever seems the most urgent at the time you end up working insanely long hours without a real sense of achievement.

I’ve really struggled with this when I entered the world of business and blogging. Particularly the weekends were completely taken up in front of my computer.

If I could do things differently I’d make sure to dedicate more time for fun, friends and family, instead of just working on my business.

Focus & Learn to let Go

Alden June 27, 2012 at 1:31 am

I’d have immediately invested in a good course or mentor.

Like others, I thought I could do it alone, at no cost, making that the “magic pill” of making money online: No cost, and make money.

I ended up struggling and feeling lost for so long until I decided to step it up and invested in a couple of expensive Skype coaching from a couple of other bloggers.

Getting lessons and insights from proven people is definitely worth it :)

Graham July 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Hey Alden – Any suggestions on where to go for education/coaching/mentoring? I love some direction with the million options there are out there.

Duncan August 20, 2012 at 12:13 am

Graham, while he may not be taking on subjects for mentoring you should definitely read Pat Flynn’s – Smart Passive Income blog. He’s really, really good. Highly recommend. And, of course, Corbet! C and P are two of the most transparent people on the internet that i have found.

Another good way to find mentors is to poke around the Warrior Forum. I wouldn’t immediately sign up to anyone but i would certainly ask around, follow certain ones, get on their list and see what they have to say. If their “vibe” fits your and you have similar philosophies then reach out to them. Good luck!

Ben Troy June 27, 2012 at 1:42 am

Interesting question,If I were to start over online again, I would have focused on building a self hosted website to make money with membership program .

Ayaz June 27, 2012 at 1:43 am

Really interesting question and I would start learning few things which I thought might be working greatly for me and somehow, wasted lots of time doing the other things but some one said; the time is right to do the right things.

Michael Corley June 27, 2012 at 2:52 am

If I started all over again today, I’d only change 3 things;

1. Don’t read or listen to too much advice given about content marketing, social media networking and blogging … (spent way too much time trying to determine who had the right guidance)

2. Only choose 2 social networking platforms to connect and engage with prospects, customers and colleagues.

3. Focus entirely on delivering valuable, actionable content to my subscribers.

It’s way too easy to get caught up with trying to keep up with the latest tip, hack, secret and advice offered … Better to go all in immediately and see where you are after your first 6 months and adjust thereafter.

Dean June 27, 2012 at 3:40 am

Hey Corbett, great question!

If I was to do it all over again I would definitely concentrate on just 1 authority site, building a brand and loyal email following in the process.

Back in the day when I had 20+ sites I was spreading myself too thin and no one site got the attention it deserved. When Google stopped sharing the love they all crashed and burned, leaving me with nothing except the bitter taste of regret!

Daniel Farr June 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I wish I’d thought through my company’s name more before launching. I run a lifestyle and events city guide out of LA and instead of using a name that is intuitive to the brand, I picked something with an acronym that is only familiar to the hollywood entertainment insiders community.

We’re doing 25k uniques a month and out to raise funding. Feedback we’re getting is they love the concept, but want us to change the name. We can divert traffic to a different URL, but the 6500 twitter followers and 4,000 facebook fans?? Gone!

Choose a name that represents intuitively the idea you’re trying to sell to potential customers!

Shannon June 29, 2012 at 8:57 pm

You can change your Twitter name but not the FB page name unless you had less than 200 likes (which you don’t).

Here’s how to change your Twitter name: https://support.twitter.com/articles/14609-how-to-change-your-username

Sam June 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Three things stick out for me that I would have done differently –

1) Dreamed bigger. I think when starting a site/business, you should think about the absolute best case scenario – if this thing blew up, what would you want it to be? It makes you think about everything entirely differently. Because I have now gone through a number of “pivots” since launching, I’ve had to re-brand a couple of times (I have a new logo launching next week which will be the last time) to be able to effectively do the things I want to.

2) Started building my email list sooner.

3) Started developing products sooner. I still haven’t actually released anything, but am finally hoping to have something finished in the next few weeks – it has been a long old process!

Of course, in reality I wouldn’t have done anything differently because I’ve learned from everything that I have (or in this case, haven’t) done. The beauty is in the journey not the destination!

Derek Jensen June 28, 2012 at 5:58 am

Establishing your why is crucial. If you don’t you’ll find yourself subconsciously wishing you did later on.

Anyone remember LifeNotion, a college technology blog? Unfortunately, today only a few people do. This makes me sad especially when I know it could’ve easily been on par with Thomas Frank’s College Info Geek. Yeah, imagine two college blogs residing at Iowa State University.

So, I do the following right off that bat and I’m actually doing that with Resimplify:

Establish your why (Simon Sinek style), imagine what your pitch would look or sound like, be thinking about gathering email addresses, establish contacts related to your field, have well thought out content (10 items at least) ready to go, establish a rhythm and style, seek out to create something viral, and keep the operations going no matter what (unless of course you just don’t enjoy it, then it’s time to do something else).

That’s the just of it. I’ve done so many projects online with most of them being just ideas with a fancy name and website. Resimplify will only be my second dedicated effort. LifeNotion.com was my first, which lasted almost 2 years to my knowledge.

If want something badly, do what it takes while learning from yours and others mistakes. Good luck my friends and have fun.

Senadheera Jayakody June 28, 2012 at 6:53 am

Honestly I guess many starters have a second thought when they really begin to think about what they have started, specially in the early stages.

Alba June 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

I would take more action and stop second guessing myself. But overall, ORGANIZED. i tend to get a lot of Bright Shiny Object Syndrome. I would also face my fears and do more speaking and JV’s. I missed out a lot due to fear of failure so I kept playing small.

Shelly Cone June 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm

I have Bright Shiny Object Syndrome too! There are so many opportunities on the Internet and it’s so hard to ignore those and focus on the plan you have in place.

Don Sturgill June 28, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Focus.

Shelly Cone June 28, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Hands down I would have charged what I’m worth at the start. I’ve got some awesome skills, yet going out on my own I initially felt that I needed to charge bargain prices to get clients. Those clients gave me heavy workloads for bargain basement prices and though the work was steady I didn’t realize that it was taking time away from building my business and attracting higher paying clients. Clients are willing to pay what you’re worth–I just didn’t believe that when I started.

Joseph June 29, 2012 at 8:21 am

What a great question and an awesome group of comments here! Great to see so many successful people offering their input.

Without a doubt, I would have started hanging out with successful entrepreneurs and business owners sooner. I’ve only recently begun to do this and it’s had a profound effect on my personal development and business success. That, combined with sharing my goals/visions with people and realizing that the more I do, the more people I find who want to help or know someone who wants to help, collaborate, etc. The power, and reward, of personal connections can’t be overstated.

And some of the other ‘would have done differently’ details: not spent 20 hours and $300 on a logo, not gotten fancy business cards designed, not written a 30-pg business plan that neither I nor anyone has read since I finished it!, I would have hired my employees earlier, I would have fired poor employees much sooner.

It’s a continuous learning process and it’s so much damn fun.

Graham July 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Joseph, if you’re not one of them, how do you go about “hanging out with successful entrepreneurs and business owners?” I am doing my best to make the right connections and but any tips you might have would be appreciated!

Mike July 2, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I’d not have added Google AdSense to my brand new sites before I knew what the heck I was doing. http://livetheneweconomy.com/blog/2012/5/1/making-sense-of-the-adsense-situation.html

Jamie Hudson July 5, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I would spend more time writing instead of doing SEO.

I would spend more time with social media and building a real following.

I would have created and stuck to a real content publishing schedule.

Darlene July 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm

- I’d have registered my full name with “.com” right away instead of a shortened one with “.ca”.

- I’d have done a NON flash based site. As a photographer we like “pretty” sometimes at the cost of functional.

- I’d have gotten active on Google + right away. I joined in the first 2 weeks when it was invitation only but I didn’t “work it” until about 3 months ago. Now people active all that time have over 50,000 followers and I’ve got 1,500.

I’d have started blogging more actively, more often a lot sooner. I wasn’t clear on my focus until about a year ago and really started blogging. Now I know where I’m going with it and aim to write a post a week but that’s been hard to keep up even.

Alan Reeves July 14, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I would, like many others, have spent more time defining a focus for my site. Having a clearly defined focus for a site would have allowed me to generate more future content and schedule that content which would reduce workload and anxiety.

After having my personal site up for 5 months, I started a small business. With that small business came a site where I published posts 5 times a week for 3 months. It has a focus, but with two sites, a family, a job, and personal site, my hands were too full. I really should have stepped back or merged the sites but, then again, having a better focus for my personal site would have allowed me to keep ahead of the curve in content creation.

Most of all, I would have started earlier and registered my name as a dot com.

stefan August 16, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Obviously, I would do it the same way again. Why? The way I act is the way I am. Said that I must admit, my site is only 3 month old and I´m way from having success with it. So I´m learning. But learning by doing. Things that don´t work will be stopped. Btw, sorry for my poor english, german is my native language.
Maybe in two years I can tell you what I would have done, if..
But I think the better way but regretting anything is to go on and just do it! Do it once again! And do it a better way. If you didn´t do it wrong, how you can say what´s wrong.
So now I just can tell what I will do in the future: Focus on content, change to a professional theme like THESIS, try to build a list. And have short time goals to fulfill.
Then we´ll see
Stefan

Duncan August 20, 2012 at 12:52 am

Wow, there are a lot of great comments here and all of them are on point in so many different ways.

Biggest tip, start with your own brand building. Not a niche site. Start building credibility while you are defining what niche (s) you want to get in to.

Simply put, on your personal “brand site”, start by blogging about one of your passions. Then “ping out” your content as you write the content so that the search engines will index your site. People interested in your passion will find you. Since you aren’t “selling anything” yet on your site, you can start building a list slowly by adding an opt-in box using Aweber or Constant Contact. By talking about one or two of your passions you’ll get traffic.

Have a clear call to action to encourage comments, opt-ins to your mailer, etc. Then with the interaction you’ll likely find that your readers/visitors will unknowingly “help you define/discover” what your first product or service will be. Learn from your visitors what they are looking for. Create content around that need then create a SIMPLE product fulfilling that need. Then give it away for free…

When creating your content always use catchy headlines. Most people react to “7 Easy Tips To…” “Top 3 XXXX’s that I recommend”, etc…People should be able to discern what the article is about just by reading the title….

Buy a premium wordpress theme and get started. Don’t waste time with the freebies. A great one to use is Optimize Press ($97). The functionality of it is amazing. And, their tutorials are grand! I wasted so much time trying to save the $97 that I probably spent $1000 worth of my time trying to figure out what works best…None of the themes look as good as they make them on the sellers site simply because the images they show you on their “Demo” site for that theme are all using HIGH REZ HD photos and layed out by pros…..I never got a site to look good until recently….also, keep your site simple…

Subscribe to 2-3 blogs and follow them. Corbet is great and so is Pat Flynn. I follow them both.

Hire a mentor. I flailed online until I hired a mentor. I was falling victim to all the new “Tips and Tricks” the gurus were sharing. Don’t do that. It is a waste of time. Hiring a mentor not only helped me narrow my focus but also brought to my attention that I was trying to multi-task too much and trying to be in too many niches at once. My mentor helped me with my daily success ritual where I spend 2x2x2x2 (2 hours on driving traffic, 2 hours working on my product conversions, 2 hours building content, 2 hours working with my virtual assistant delegating tasks) Some days I do 3x3x2 depending on what I need to get done.

In fact, I am now not only his client but I am his friend. We skype often. He now runs his ideas past me first cause I am a follower of his and I tell him what I like about it and what I don’t. Now, we are creating a product together based around a couple things I suggested to him. So, yes, I paid him to mentor me but we are both getting so much more out of it than either of us had imagined.

Don’t be scared to ask for help. You’d be amazed at how many people will help you. We all have to start somewhere….

Stop looking for a short cut. It doesn’t exist! If you do find “the short cut” don’t tell anyone but me….hahahaha…….Good luck..! D

Jeremiah Say December 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Well, there are several things I would do differently:

1) I’ll spend less time worry about which hosting company to go for, what are the best affiliate products to promote, thinking of a good domain name etc.

Well, I’m not saying these aren’t important but obviously they are not the most important of all. These stuff won’t make me money.

If I have to start all over. I’ll focus more on traffic generation skills, how to deliver quality product, how to build a strong system (or sales funnel) instead of which hosting company to go for etc.

2) I’ll spend more time focusing on how to help others instead of being selfish and focusing on getting rich myself.

I can be rich selling crap to others (sadly, this is what’s most gurus are doing today) but I know it is against my conscious. I definitely could NOT eat and sleep well.

So, if given a choice to start over. I’ll focus more on helping others than merely making money.

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