The thing I enjoy the most about being an online business owner is this: Nobody can take away what I have built with SBI! - John Shank, SBI! member since 2003

Common Mistakes to Avoid as You Build Your Online Business


Of course, you want to be successful. No-one starts an online business because they think they’ll fail.

But what do “success” and “failure” really mean? And how can you, at the start of your online business journey, bring about success, and leave behind failure?

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill
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Let’s Define Success

Success is more than merely the absence of failure. It’s also the absence of failure in the nitty-gritty, in-the-trenches sense.

What do I mean by that?…

Success is the absence of making mistakes.

Yes, it’s also about doing things well, but that’s not the focus of this discussion.

No single mistake will doom you (except picking a terribly wrong niche). But a combination of them certainly will.

SBI! can claim many successful sites. They are the result of the passion, determination, and hard work of their solopreneur authors.

Of course, passion and determination alone won’t hack it. They need combining with the trusted SBI! process of

Content > Traffic > PRE-Selling > Monetization

outlined in the SBI! ‘Action Guide’.

But every SBI! site, no matter how successful, contains at least one or two (or three!) errors. And that’s OK. The C > T > P > M process is strong enough to overcome the occasional boo-boo.

What if you make a whole bunch of errors? Well, you’re headed in the wrong direction, to put it mildly.


How SBI! Helps Avoid Mistakes

For SBIers, errors only come about when people fail to follow the very specific advice in the Action Guide. For example, putting some rarely searched word as your home page’s Specific Keyword is not the advice contained in the Action Guide.

Picking the wrong niche is another error. A biggie. If you follow the Guide well you shouldn’t make a mistake like this.

Perhaps you come to your new business with a pre-conceived idea about the niche you’d like to choose. That’s understandable. Lots of people do.

But it’s better to keep an open mind until SBI!’s tools have helped you make an informed decision.

Tools? What tools?

Well, there’s “Niche Choose It!”, for example. This nifty piece of decision-making software helps you weigh up all critical factors: passion, knowledge, time available, monetization potential. It takes a complex – and crucial – decision-making process, and makes it easy.

And then there’s Brainstorm It!. This is a combination of Brainstormer, which in a matter of minutes generates potential keywords for your website, and the Master Keyword List, where you analyze and filter those keywords until you have a blueprint for your site’s content.

But I digress.  Let’s get back to the big picture of this article…

What Are The Major Mistakes People Make?

I don’t know a single successful person in my life who has not made any mistakes.

If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.

I asked SBIers in the forums to identify some avoidable boo-boos – either mistakes they’ve made themselves, or gaffes they’ve seen others make. Here’s a sampling of the most common and important.

Side-step these mistakes as you build your business.

1. “Oh Look – a Squirrel” Syndrome

This is to do with lack of focus, and it’s a very common error amongst would-be solopreneurs. It may be for good reason – creative people tend to get distracted more easily – but it can lead to chasing the “latest-greatest” thing – which then turns out not to be so great after all.

Even within SBI! it can happen. There’s no point chasing down every last keyword that looks like it could be the next great niche sent from heaven.

So if you tend to get over-excited by the latest “bright shiny object” which is sure to make you a millionaire overnight – don’t do it. Plan. Re-focus on the task in hand. Don’t go chasing squirrels.

Keep calm red poster in modern line style

2. Mistakes of Omission

This involves leaving things undone altogether, or skimming through things rather than applying proven advice conscientiously. Of all the issues raised in terms of errors made by new solopreneurs starting an online business, this one came out top.

Here are some of the most common “mistakes of omission,” straight from our customers’ mouth:

  • Skipping through the Action Guide, anxious and eager to “get to the real stuff” and not re-reading or re-watching the Guide to get the important aspects of site-building right.
  • Not taking full advantage of SBI!’s tools. It’s obvious when people aren’t actually using the tools; when they haven’t really read the Action Guide; when they haven’t read Make Your Content PReSell!.
  • So many people don’t take the time to read and learn the basics of “Make Your Content Sell” – yet it is the definitive guide for writing on the web. It includes formatting; writing short, sharp, active sentences; using headlines, lists, and other skimmable writing techniques to keep visitors’ eyes moving down the page.
  • Not taking full advantage of the collective wisdom and experience in the SBI! Forums and the Tips’n’Techniques articles. These work together with the Action Guide, and extend it.
  • Not looking at your competition. It’s a great roadmap if you look at your “successful” competition, learn what they do – and follow suit. I don’t mean to “copy” but if you see that they are using ads in a certain way, or if they come into the forums and make a recommendation, listen to them.

“It’s nice to have valid competition. It pushes you to do better” Gianni Versace.
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  • Not planning monetization carefully enough, and settling for easy ways to monetize. Dig deeper. Look for better affiliate partners. Think about making your own products.
  • Not having a newsletter, or not being clear that the site has one. The newsletter is one of the best pre-selling tools that I know of. Besides that, it’s one of the top ways to draw visitors back to your site.
  • I know a newsletter is a commitment. But in return, you get to directly reach those who liked your site the most. That’s a whole new relationship. Even if you just take 15 minutes a month to give a “breezy” update about what’s new on the site … It’s a commitment that’s well worth it.
  • Learning that everything hinges on everything else. It’s a lot like putting a puzzle together, if one piece is wrong or missing, you’ll have some scrambling to do to fix it.

3. Mistakes of Commission

These errors involve actively fighting against proven advice, techniques and tools.

Consider these forum comments from experienced SBIers about the mistakes they see people making. Then, make up your mind that you won’t fall into the same traps.

  • Choosing a niche solely because “the numbers are so great” – presumably because it will be profitable. No passion or personal experience or knowledge, which are vital elements. Numbers alone don’t do it.
  • Choosing the wrong niche for your circumstances, time-wise. If you only have an hour or two per week, that’s fine, but you have to “go narrow.”
  • Using very broad keywords that don’t have a hope of getting ranked, for example:  “money,” “health,” “fit,” “food,” “baby,” and “love”.
  • Not knowing your potential audience is a huge mistake. For whom are you writing? That’s the first question people should be asking before they start to write, and definitely before they try to sell.
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves”Steve Jobs.
  • Against all Action Guide advice, I see people not writing sufficient quality content on their pages. Content is the start of it all.
  • People often have loads of affiliate banners, and try to sell far too early.

4. Mistakes of Personality

These are the issues that come with solopreneurs being individuals, with all their flaws and foibles. Look hard at yourself. Is this you? How do you need to change, to make sure these errors can be corrected?

  • Think long, think hard, plan, and sleep on it – but then, decide!
  • Getting discouraged too soon and freezing up before taking any action is a problem. I get way too involved at wanting to understand exactly what I’m doing, and why, before taking any action whatsoever.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Trying to be a perfectionist is a big problem which holds people back. Making mistakes is part of the learning process.


  • Being scared of making “mistakes” is a mistake in itself. I admit to this one. I secretly think that my mistakes reflect on who I am. I’ve allowed this, perfectionism and over-analyzing to keep me from putting content up fast, easily, and with a jaunty spirit.
  • The problem is making the mistakes twice. That means you haven’t learned anything. No one can live without making mistakes. So make mistakes, make many – but make sure you learn from them.
  • Staying inside our comfort zone is a mistake. I think this is a biggie that’s not talked about enough. We all tend to do what we like to do, not what scares us.
  • Not getting help from outsiders, if necessary. I use local agents simply because they’re better in setting up deals with locals than I can do. Local talks easier with locals. It cost me a little extra money, but in the long run I make more.

And Finally…

Let’s wrap up the list of errors to avoid with a suggestion by Travis Wilkerson, one of SBI!’s many successful solopreneurs.

This is probably the greatest error of all.

“Not treating your online journey like it’s a real business.”


This is a critically important attitude to eliminate.

If you really, deeply think of it as a business, you’ll be far more creative on the monetization side of things.

Sometimes, calling it an “e-business” is just too “low-risk”. If it had a big, expensive lease and expensive inventory, you’d wake up thinking about new ways to turn traffic into dollars every morning.

So, do just that. Think of your online business as a business. Consider the mistakes above. Think about how to avoid them.

And above all, remember: your past mistakes are meant to guide you – not define you. If you make a mistake, learn from it – and then move on, to your success.

What mistakes have you made while building your business? Please share in the comments below.

Ken Evoy (CEO, SiteSell)
Ken Evoy is the Founder, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of SiteSell Inc. He is the creator of SBI!, SiteSell's comprehensive Web business-building system. Ken is also a successful inventor, author, and emergency physician. He feels strongly that solopreneurs can be empowered by leveraging their income building potential online.

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