Today, I’m a successful owner of a multi-brand online training company that brings in multiple 7 figures a year in revenue—but it wasn’t always like that. I’m going to be straight with you: it’s real easy to look successful online. I wasn’t successful overnight—or even within a few years.
Sure, I had mild successes (I had to in order to keep going, right?!), but I wasn’t where I wanted to be—or where I wanted my business to be.
Three of the main reasons I wasn’t successful are all things you can learn from and course correct so you’re not spending months or years struggling to make your own business work. These are three things I’m willing to bet you’ve heard of or maybe have started to believe the same myths as me.
The truth is, there are a lot of digital marketing gurus who are teaching things that they’ve never done themselves, which is
- Wildly disingenuous
- Completely not my case
There’s one big reason for my success: I created the Circuit Sales System (CSS) to sell my first online course. And that allowed me to 40x my income in a little more than two years.
But CSS exists only because I blocked out what the gurus say you have to do to achieve success (ahem: live launching, evergreen, challenges, everything). All of that? It wasn’t working for me. And I leaned into what I knew—what I saw firsthand—was working.
Here are three of the mistakes I was making before I leaned into what I knew (and what the data proved was working). I know other online business owners are still making these makes—but my hope is you can avoid them!
Mistake #1: Build It & They Will Come
This is definitely a mark of a new business owner. A lot of people have been here, too. I thought, “This is a great program. I’m going to put it out there, and then people are going to buy it.” If you build it, they will come.
That was me in 2012.
Before Nicki K Media became a multi-brand online training company, I had one course. This program (the Comprehensive Copywriting Academy, or CCA) is based on my 20+ years of copywriting experience and teaches people how to write copy and how to build professional copywriting businesses and all that that entails (writing copy, building portfolios, how to reach out to potential clients and be a partner to them in every way that they should be, etc.).
It was—and is—a fantastic program. So, I figured it would sell itself.
That’s not what happened. I realized that I was going to have to figure out some way to actually sell this program.
I know a lot of online business owners who have that moment of, “I know people can benefit from this. But do I continue with this because this is just eating up so much of my time, energy, heart, soul … all of it?”
It’s very frustrating and very daunting when you put something together that you know benefits your audience … and you put it out in the world and very few people buy it. Or they don’t come running like you thought they would.
Some people did purchase the copywriting program and had success with it. I knew it was a good program. I put in everything that I knew about copywriting. And quite frankly, in the 10+ years since then, we have kept adding to the program.
There were a few early students who wrote to me. The one that always comes to mind is one of the very first students who sent me an email and said, “Hey, I just wanted you to know that I just lost my job.” She was able to support herself because of what I taught in the CCA. She then landed a full-time contract role at one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world.
That affirmed to me that what I had to offer was something that people wanted and that people needed it. That’s what kept me going through all of the years when I couldn’t quite figure out how to get this in front of people.
But sitting back and hoping people will find it organically? It’s not enough if you want to grow your business—and impact more people.
Having a system for selling (the Circuit Sales System) has since allowed us to teach 10,000+ copywriting students.
Mistake #2: You Need to Do THIS
As business owners, we’re often told, “You need to do THIS.”
This is often advice from digital marketing gurus. But what works for the marketing masters doesn’t work for most of us.
So, what you-need-to-do-this advice did I follow? All. Of. It.
First of all, I played with my offer’s price a ton—increasing it, decreasing it—because, “Oh, maybe it’s the price.” But price is rarely the reason people won’t buy.
I tried challenges, live launches, email funnels, more evergreen funnels. I tried taking it from a course and making it a membership. And with the membership, I had to create additional content every single month on top of that.
Everything was falling flat. Nothing was connecting, and it was so frustrating and so dispiriting because I knew that what I’d put together was really good.
Now, I had evidence that it would benefit people. But I couldn’t figure out how to deliver it to them in a way that would inspire them, that would get them excited, and that would get them to take action. Those are the three magical points. I would get one or two of the three with all these kinds of things, but not all three.
Jumping Off the Everyone’s-Doing-It Bandwagon
I don’t even know if it was one specific breaking point so much as me just spending a lot of 2018 in that place of frustration, thinking, “I know this has got to be possible.” In fact, essentially I spent $700 on a coaching call with a business coach just to ask the question, “Is it possible to have an online business where I sell courses, where I run ads, or I do social, and they come and buy the courses?”
And, of course, she said yes. And I needed that validation. That’s when I started to think, “Okay, if it’s possible for anyone, then it’s possible for me, and I can figure this out.” I started to focus on what I know, which is that I’m a copywriter, I know messaging, and I know the customer journey. And because I’ve spent so many years learning about companies’ target audiences and seeing what they experience, I also know a lot about customer psychology and the customer journey.
Knowing What You Want … And What You Don’t
I also knew what I wanted and what I didn’t want in my business. I did not want to do live launches. It’s not as big now, but it used to be. Everybody had to have a free Facebook group to nurture potential buyers. You had to go into the free Facebook group every day and interact with them and answer questions.
I would think, “I don’t have time to be running my business. How am I going to be have time to get in this Facebook group with people who aren’t even purchasing? I’m supposed to give away stuff for free?”
I joke sometimes about being a lazy entrepreneur because they would list all this stuff, and I would think, “I don’t want to do that (free Facebook group/live challenge/all this stuff).” Now, obviously, I joke about it because I’m certainly far from lazy.
I wanted to find a system that I could set up and let it run and let it sell for me but also that would sell to people on their timeline when they were ready to purchase.
We talk a lot about the customer excitement and catching them when they’re most excited, and I wanted to set up a system that would deliver my very best offer when they were the most excited and give them that opportunity.
And then if they don’t purchase then, to give them the opportunity later to rebuild that excitement and to give them the opportunity to buy later. I knew that there had to be a way to make it all happen automatically.
And there was. (It’s what became the Circuit Sales System.)
Mistake #3: It’s Not Your Focus, It’s the Tactics
In 2018, I was thinking, “All right, if it’s possible to make this business work, I’m going to lean into this.” So, I scaled back. I knew that I couldn’t be doing the copywriting work for my clients and also be focusing on the business. I let go of almost all of my copywriting clients so I could focus on the business.
My thought process was, “Well, if I can just focus on it…”
But I know now it was the tactics all along—not my focus.
You may already know that—especially if you’ve been hyper focused on your business and it’s still not living up to the potential you know it has.
I didn’t have much money coming in, and I got to the point where I had $55,000 on a credit card. I wasn’t doing anything wild or crazy; it was living expenses and some business expenses. (Stressful? Yes.)
The only thing that kept me going was that I knew it was possible for it to work—that I just needed to figure out the system. I knew that there are people who wanted this, even if they didn’t know that they wanted it yet. I knew that once I explained this to them, they’ll understand they wanted it and it was a good product.
There was a way, and I was able to pay that credit card off very quickly once I got the Circuit going for the Comprehensive Copywriting Academy.
Leaning Into Tactics That Work
When people talk about the secret to success is persistence, this is a perfect example of it. Persistence is continuing to just show up and knowing that if I kept doing something, evaluating what other people were saying, and then going, “But everybody’s saying to this, but actually, I know the way that people operate and I know that that’s not going to work.”
The online business world is an echo chamber of bad advice. People are sharing things that they’ve heard. They don’t know whether it works or not .But they’re still sharing it. Most people are talking about stuff that they haven’t done or haven’t made work for themselves.
And then you also start to experience the sunk-cost fallacy of, “Well, I’ve been doing this for so long and everybody says that it works, I have to just keep doing this.”
When if you look at it, you realize, “Oh, it’s never worked, so it’s not a matter of doing it more often; it’s a matter of evaluating your tactics and maybe not listening to what everybody says you have to do.”
None of us got into business to give up. We all got into business to help people, to change other people’s lives and to change our own lives, and to experience that freedom and that fulfillment (and some days, certainly frustration), but often the joy of getting to do what we want to do and to help other people.
You owe it to yourselves and you owe it to your business not to give up on it, to keep trying.
The reality is that it is challenging. There are days you want to give up. But that there are ways to do what you want to do and accomplish your goals—and then set even bigger ones.
In this episode of our Energize Your Online Business podcast, we look at some of the mistakes Nicki made on the way to building her hugely successful multimillion-dollar online business! Utilize this episode to help you stand out from the competition and take your business to the next level.
What are some of the mistakes you’ve made in your online business? What successful online business tactics did you use to fix them? Let us know in the comments below!