Why I was ready to walk away from my online business

*Note — I originally intended to post this article outright. However, since writing down my thoughts I have worried how the message might discourage some people. So, I almost pulled the post. But I am not going to for two reasons. First, I realize the power of consistently producing content. In fact, I’ve been reminded of that recently as my subscriber list has finally been growing (almost daily). Second, I want to share with you my honest and transparent struggles with growing aspects of my business because I know that many of you are experiencing the same thing.

So, instead of deleting the article, I am going to encourage you to read it. My hope is that my words will allow you to admit how tough it is, but remind you that everything takes time. Hang in there.

I’ve been at the side hustle and online business game for a long time now. While it has provided me a very nice return, this year has been my best year yet by generating a mid-five-figure income, I have recently been thinking about walking away due to the amount of energy an online business can consume.

This weekend I did a review of which of my efforts produce the most revenue compared to taking up the most energy and time. What prompted me was an article by Austin L Church. The exercise was eye-opening. Just as Pareto’s Principle implies, 80% of my revenue was coming from 20% of my clients.

Before I share the details of my review, let’s look at my online business career to date. If you only care about those details, feel free to scroll down.

My history with side hustling and online business

My first attempt was as part of a direct sales company that helps people bridge the gap between what they do and should eat. Even after years after stepping away from that business I still earn a nice residual income every year.

In case you are wondering, I walked away from that model for two reasons. First, it meant needing to build a team and finding the right people who would stay engaged was very, very hard. It turns out lots of people want extra income, but few are willing to do what it takes to earn it. Second, I wanted to build a business I could sell and direct sales don’t lend itself to that.

From there I moved into the world of startups and building my first online business where I monetized my experience and knowledge through online courses and eBooks. During that same time, I started working on freelancing gigs through sites like Upwork.

Of course, there have been other businesses I have tried that yielded some income. Such as my marketing agency that helps entrepreneurs and startups from the Southern United States get noticed. Or, the iOS app I built to help startups understand their chances of raising funding.

Then there are the countless ideas I have considered but never pursued. Things like starting a membership site, becoming a Registered Investment Advisor, flipping houses…the list goes on.

To be fair, part of the problem is that I haven’t stuck with any one idea. In fact, the only business I have stuck with is helping people find funding for their business. Because that is the topic I know best and is what people contact me for.

The results of my online business review

First, I categorized all of my online business efforts and the average amount of time per week I have spent on them.

  • Blogging — 2 hours per week

So, I have been spending about 19 hours per week at night, or a solid part-time job’s worth of time, on my online business efforts.

What you will notice is that six out of the seven activities can be grouped into a content marketing approach. Producing all that content and posting it on social media, even when using automation, takes up a fair amount of time. In fact, it accounts for 84% of my invested time.

Here is the worst part. I can only attribute 12% of my income to online business activities and that is almost exclusively through one source — online courses that are already produced and in place.

How my online business will change based on this information

Let me repeat those numbers again. I just told you that it takes 84% of my time to produce 12% of my online business income. Or, to put it another way, I can give myself back 16 hours per week and only lose 12% of my extra income.

Looking at things this way has made my decision really easy.

First, content marketing and social media don’t work for me. In fact, after further research, I cannot attribute a single penny of income to those activities. So, regular blogging and time spent on social media will be reduced.

Will I keep posting things through social media? Sure, but mostly through the use of automation services I already have in place.

Will I keep blogging? Occasionally. But only when I feel I have something that I really want to share and that I think my subscribers will really benefit from.

Will I keep podcasting? For a bit longer. But, unless I figure out a way to grow and monetize it better it’s days could be numbered.

Second, I am going to double down on the one source that has produced for me — freelancing. The best part is that freelancing is only taking up about 3 hours per week, but is producing almost all of my extra income. Imagine what I could do if I rerouted those other 16 hours to freelancing.

Or, heck, maybe I will put those hours into personal hobbies instead.

Final thoughts

Don’t let me discourage you if you are considering, or have, an online business of your own. These thoughts are merely what I have experienced. Are content marketing and social media worth the invested time? For some people. It just hasn’t proven so for me.

Who knows, maybe I will eat my words. But for now, I am going to go enjoy my newly found 16 hours of free time.

Written by

I’m a former C-level banking exec. and 3x startup founder leading a corporate innovation/product team and have helped companies raise over $500M in funding.

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